Skip to content

FireSmart video for Cariboo communities released on YouTube

Wildfire expert shares how homeowners and communities can help prevent wildfire-urban disasters
Alan Westhaver is a wildfire researcher and expert who spent 30 years working in wildfire and helped write the FireSmart manual on how to protect properties from the devastating impacts of urban-wildfire disasters. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

A video is now available for home and property owners to hear from wildland-urban fire safety expert Alan Westhaver.

Westhaver presented on how residents and communities can protect their properties and help prevent wildfire-urban disasters in May.

Westhaver made presentations in Lillooet, Clinton, Williams Lake, Quesnel and Clearwater, hosted by B.C.’s Community Wildfire Roundtables with support from the Fraser Basin Council.

He has over 30 years in wildfire risk reduction, and was sharing lessons on how fire disasters happen, and high priority actions residents can take to reduce wildfire risks to homes and properties.

Westhaver has an MSc. and helped co-create the Canadian FireSmart Program, which provides resources on how to landscape and maintain properties to reduce the potential for wildfires impacting them.

He showed video and photo imagery showing how properties adjacent to forests are impacted or can be protected, with the help of the FireSmart principles.

Westhaver helped author the report on the Lytton fire which devastated that community.

“I know from the bottom of my heart that this is something that we don’t want to experience ever,” he said, adding: “It’s good that this is avoidable.”

While many in the public may have the idea a large out-of-control wildfire heading for urban areas is an “unstoppable force” or some sort of monster which will consume homes and properties no matter what, Westhaver has done years of research and knows there is a lot we can do to reduce risks to property.

He has studied many of the large urban-wildfire disasters including the Fort MacMurray fire which destroyed 2,400 buildings in that community, over 2,000 of which were homes.

His research looked at how the fires entered those communities and led to such wide-spread destruction, and it backs up the principles of FireSmart, which emphasize how residents can do a lot to reduce the risk of disaster.

Analysis of the Lytton disaster proved it followed the pattern of many similar disasters, a chain-reaction of events which only occurs during wildfires of the most extreme intensity, when the limits of fire control are exceeded.

Nonetheless, that sequence can be broken by making our homes and properties more resistant to ignition. Another surprise, most of the actions required to eliminate vulnerabilities and reduce risk are small, easily achieved, and inexpensive… yet they do make a big difference to home survival.

Westhaver’s study of Fort MacMurray showed 81 per cent of the homes he looked at which were not destroyed in the community were FireSmart -that is they were properties which adhered to the basic principles of fire prevention for FireSmart, reducing fuels around the house which could combust as a result of radiant heat and ember showers.

In urban settings, Westhaver said it is important to work together and take a neighbourhood approach to FireSmarting properties.

Aside from checking the FireSmart BC web site, he strongly recommends that residents act now to:

  1. Find and remove accumulations of leaves, needles and other easily ignited debris from nooks and crannies on, under and around all buildings on their property.
  2. Eliminate, store inside, or relocate (more than 10 metres away), all concentrations of flammable materials, machinery, ATV’s and firewood.
  3. Trim and space all flammable shrubs and trees around your home, favouring fire-resistant broad-leaved trees. Gather and remove dead vegetation, leaves and needles below them.
  4. Remove ornamental junipers, cedars and ground pine from around the home, they burn with great intensity.
  5. Establish a 1.5 metre wide “non-combustion zone” immediately around the perimeter of all homes, including any flammable attachments such as stairs, decks, porches and landings.

The FireSmart Manual can be downloaded at:

READ MORE: Williams Lake has a new FiresSmart coordinator

READ MORE: Wildfire expert visits Cariboo, shares urban-wildfire disaster lessons

Do you have a comment about this story? email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

I moved back to my hometown of Williams Lake after living away and joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
Read more