by Madeline Baker —

With the province’s 2023 wildfire season well underway, the City of Merritt’s Emergency Management Coordinator Krista Minar has a positive message to pass on to residents: everyone has the personal power to protect the city by reducing fire risk in their individual homes and properties. 

“The community approach, an entire neighbourhood collectively working to reduce the wildfire risk, helps everybody,” Minar said.

The fire department are already deep into their wildfire mitigation work, which includes several initiatives that have proven beneficial in the past and one in particular that empowers homeowners to do their part by offsetting some of the costs of FireSmart upgrades.

Just like last year, a grant from UBCM’s Community Resiliency program has allowed the fire department to offer FireSmart rebates to Merritt residents. Those who choose to take advantage of the program will have a local FireSmart representative visit their property to assess possible danger areas and how they could be changed for the better. 

At that point, the homeowner can choose to seek out a contractor or perform the work themselves. Once the representative confirms that the project has been completed, a rebate of up to 50 percent of the project’s cost, to a maximum of $1000, will be issued. 

Minar gave a wide example of possible home upgrades that would qualify for a FireSmart grant: installing non-combustible gutters, removing tree needles and overhanging branches from your roof, repairing cracks and gaps in your home’s siding, removing combustible items from inside your home, and switching out coniferous trees and bushes for leafy plants are all considered important changes to reduce fire risk.

Merritt will also see the return of some unusual FireSmart representatives who charmed residents last year as they scoured the nearby forest floor for the dangerous, delicious dry underbrush that acts as fuel for wildfires. 

Vahana Nature Rehabilitation have once again partnered with the city to bring 130 goats, each of which can eat up to 10 pounds of dry brush per day, to clean up the hillsides above the golf course. They will spend 10 days here, during which time they’ll be housed on the cemetery property overnight. 

Because the homes directly above the slope make controlled burning too dangerous for that spot, the goats will act as “a natural, convenient, and super cute way of treating the area,” in the words of Minar. 

For residents who would like to dig deeper into the topic of wildfire risk mitigation, the fire department will also host a presentation on reducing your wildfire risk at the Civic Center on June 6 at 6:00 p.m. The event is free by registration and features a free dinner for participants.

Along with discussions about the fire risks that are specific to Merritt and how fire prevention professionals work to keep them under control, the evening will also present a more positive look at wildfires and the vital role they play in the province’s ecosystem. Once all the presentations are complete, attendees will be able to ask questions and offer feedback.

More than anything else, Minar wants to emphasize to residents that it truly takes a village – or in this case, a whole city – to protect the city from wildfire damage like the kind seen in Lytton in 2021. 

“Wildfire science continues to show that even if one person did everything perfect on their property, if they reside next to two homes that are not FireSmart, their risk of structure loss in the event of a wildfire is increased,” said Minar.

“The risk in Merritt is not a wall of flames making its way into the community, it’s the many spot fires that can be caused by embers. We could have fires in Collettville, simultaneous fires up in the Bench, and there’s no amount of resources we could reasonably staff in Merritt that would allow us to manage six, seven, eight simultaneous structure fires.”

Information on the programs mentioned above can be found online at, and Minar also welcomes phone calls to the Fire Hall at 250-378-5626 if any residents have general questions about FireSmart initiatives.