A $15,000 grant is all that separates the Merritt Fire Rescue Department (MFRD) from updating its wildfire protection plan.
Fire chief Dave Tomkinson told the Herald the guiding document pertains to fuel management within city limits and public education, such as how to promote the Fire Smart program in Merritt.
The updated plan would also address how to prepare for managing fire fuels if the city expands its borders.
The MFRD recently applied for a community wildfire protection plan grant from the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM). The application required council to pass a resolution in support of the activities included in the grant and be willing to undertake the management of the planning project.
At the regular city council meeting on April 22, council agreed to support the protection plan and the application for funding through UBCM.
The grant will cover half the cost of rewriting the protection plan up to a total of $15,000.
The cost of the proposed planning project is $30,000.
The remaining $15,000 is included in the 2014 fire department budget.
“This would be updating the existing plan to take into account some of the changes in the community and some of the work that’s been done out in the interface area that we have,” financial services manager Ken Ostraat told council.
He also said the expense wouldn’t move forward without a successful grant application.
Ostraat said it is not a guarantee the city receives the grant if they submit the application.
Tomkinson told the Herald that in the event their application is not successful, there is another application intake in the fall which they would try.
Tomkinson said a lot of the work in the plan has been completed and the fire department is now in a phase of maintenance.
“We had one of the first — if not the first — community wildfire plan[s] in the province back in 2006, but now that the topography has changed so to speak, we’re in a maintenance phase and we just need to plan for the future,” Tomkinson said.
“What are we going to have to do? How often? What’s the frequency? Is prescribed burning the best method? Can we look at other methods of controlling some of these wildland fuels? We’ll be looking at specifically city-owned pieces of land and how we can manage them with respect to fuels,” Tomkinson said.
“It’s like any time you have any operational guideline or any policy or procedure. It should be reviewed at certain intervals and it’s just taken us a little longer than we’d like to get it back on to the table, and that’s why we brought it forward, so it doesn’t get lost,” Tomkinson said.