The 2021 BC wildfire season is still fresh in many people’s mind. The mere thought of having one’s property burn down is terrifying. The good news is that there are preventative measures that can be taken as outlined by FireSmart BC. However, most of these home improvements do not come cheap.

This is why the City of Merritt is partnering with Community Resiliency Investment Program to launch a FireSmart rebate program. This new initiative will assist residents in preparation for the 2022 wildfire season.

“For homeowners, this rebate offer helps cover the cost of labour if they are working on reducing the wildfire risk,” said Emergency Management Coordinator, Krista Minar.

“For the handy-homeowner that is able to do the work themselves, it puts some money back into their pockets after applying the FireSmart principles.”

The initiative will give eligible applicants a rebate of up to 50 percent in total expenses incurred from making FireSmart home improvements. The rebate will be capped to $500 per property. Some of the items and materials that could be considered are;

Asphalt shingles
Non-combustible gutters
Fibre cement boards
Logs
Stuccos
Bricks

The Union of BC Municipalities, through the Community Resiliency Investment Program, have provided $10,000 to make this rebate program possible.

“This year we are running this as a pilot project,” said Minar. “We are trying to focus on areas that have no existing policies for reducing wildfire risk.”

Since the project is new this year, the scope could potentially increase in the future but as of now, only specific residents in Merrit’s Bench area are eligible to apply.

Areas highlighted in green are eligible to apply for the rebate. Photo/Merritt Fire and Rescue Department

“Anyone that qualifies can put in an application through the city of Merritt,” said Minar.

“From there a FireSmart representative will come to the home and complete a wildfire-risk assessment to determine how much they would qualify for before the work is being done.”

Minar also added that non-qualifying residents are still eligible for a free wildfire-hazard assessment. Interested individuals can contact the fire department to book an appointment.

“During a wildfire event, and if conditions allow, firefighters will do house assessments and structure protection activities for areas that are at threat,” said Minar.

“Reducing the wildfire risk protects the home, the neighborhood, and the community as a whole.”

Though the primary goal of a fire resilient home is to withstand the damages fires could cause, there is also an indirect benefit that these homes provide to the community.

“By applying FireSmart principles you can increase your homes resiliency to the threat of fire and allow first responders more time to protect the neighborhood, as there is less fuel that they have to mitigate.”

“Historically, in large fires, entire neighborhoods have been sacrificed because the work to mitigate the risk is over and above the resources that are available at the time, by sacrificing those neighborhoods you can save others that are defensible.”

The Merritt fire and Rescue Department are also planning a ‘Wildfire Prep Day’ in June for the local residents.

“We are going to have vendors, an outdoor theater, and a Structure Protection Unit available to help encourage Merrittonians to take part in FireSmart practices.”

Please visit Merritt.ca for information on eligibility and how to apply for the FireSmart rebate. For more inquiries, email Krista Minar at kminar@merritt.ca or call (250) 378-5626.