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Residents removing debris from yards on FireSmart Day

Research shows that 4/5 of of the surviving homes from the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire had applied FireSmart principles while two-thirds of the homes that burned were rated as extremely poor.
Raking your leaves is just one to help make your home, neighbourhood and community safer during a wildfire. This Saturday’s FireSmart Day is just the right time to take care of business.

A wildfire bearing down on the community is not the time to be raking your leaves or filling your vehicle up with gas.

This Saturday is a much better time to get you and your property prepared.

“It is inevitable that we are going to get wildland fires. The conditions are there. It’s been proven year after year, but it’s not hopeless,” said Greg van Tighem, FireSmart co-ordinator for the Municipality of Jasper.

“A lot of people when they think about it, they see these big fires and they think, ‘Oh my god, we’re screwed. There’s nothing we can do.’ There’s lots we can do.”

The Community-Wide FireSmart Day takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 27. Jasperites from every neighbourhood, home and apartment building are asked to help pitch in to remove combustible debris from their yards and balconies.

That debris is often the big threat to communities during wildfires. Eddied by the hot wind, embers can loft kilometres ahead of the wildfire and accumulate in places such as the base of fences or underneath decks, or in the wood chip mulch under trees. Those embers spark new blazes and ignite the nearby houses much faster than if the wildfire itself was flickering at the structure.

“The problem we have is all those embers flying in front of it that are starting fires in the community,” van Tighem said.

FireSmart is a voluntary program, but its overall success is a team effort.

More than two-dozen volunteers from the municipality will conduct free yard waste and household hazardous waste pick-up during that event. Residents can pick up a package of paper yard waste bags from Home Hardware for free while supplies last.

While it’s no guarantee that the practice would save your home during a wildfire event, van Tighem referred to research from the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire. It was determined that 81 per cent of the surviving homes had applied FireSmart principles while two-thirds of the homes that burned were rated as extremely poor.

People can learn more by visiting the Municipality of Jasper’s website for information and how to participate.

Residents can also call the Jasper Fire Department at 780-852-1595 to ask about having a FireSmart consultation for their home.

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