Officials from FireSmart Alberta and FireSmart Canada visited Marten Beach on Sept. 25. Laura Stewart joined FireSmart community champion Dan Tarney, Wildfire Information Officer Leah Lovequist and Patti Campsall of the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation on a tour of the hamlet – first on the ground and then by air. They were joined for part of the tour by Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service personnel.
The upshot of the visit will be something called a ‘wildfire hazard assessment’ of the community. Evidently the hazard is quite high, due largely to many of the residences having been built not just near, but right in the middle of a pine forest.
A lot has been done in Marten Beach to mitigate the risk by removing dead and down wood in the public areas in and around the hamlet. What takes place on private property is another story.
Tarney says the FireSmart home assessments are a good idea, and available, but ‘uptake’ on them hasn’t been that great.
Not stacking firewood against sheds or houses is a good start. So is not having conifer trees close to any structure.
Tarney says one interesting new thing he gleaned from Stewart’s visit is the existence of ‘awards’ from at least one insurance company, for activities that reduce the risk of fire on private property. Specifically, to be put toward the cost of taking down hazardous trees.
Otherwise, sprinkler systems for structures are “really important!” Tarney says.
Tarney characterizes the Marten Beach FireSmart program as “ongoing, expanding, changing, improving, beneficial, and kinda fun at times.”