Kaslo residents gather for FireSmart and Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan open house

On the evening of Wednesday, April 3, about 20 Kaslo residents gathered for an open house on the Kaslo FireSmart Program and the Kaslo & Area D Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan (CWRP).

Presenters included Jessie Lay, Kaslo’s FireSmart coordinator, John Cathro and Mark Elder, professional foresters, and Jeff Reyden, co-manager of the Kaslo & District Community Forest Society.

Representatives from the Kaslo Volunteer Fire Department attended, including new fire chief, Eric Graham. Grace Kyle, BC Wildfire Prevention Specialist, Nora Hannon, RDCK Disaster Mitigation and Adaption Senior Advisor, and Greg and Geri Brown of Kaslo Emergency Services were also available to chat with.


Jessie Lay opened the evening. She talked about the purpose of FireSmart and what the program offers.

“FireSmart is all about empowering homeowners to be educated and make decisions about the fuels in and around their homes,” she said. “Fire needs three things to burn: fuel, heat, and oxygen. FireSmart is about removing fuel from that fire triangle.”

As coordinator, Lay administers home assessments. She visits homeowners and discusses what can be done to make the property more resilient to wildfires.

“One goal of FireSmart is for a home to still be standing [after a fire] without any intervention,” she said.

Using non-combustible building materials, storing firewood and barbeques away from the home, and regularly clearing fallen branches and dry grass are a few steps that can be taken. The assessments take about 60 minutes, depending on the size of the property, and will be offered beginning in May.

Lay said a common misconception she hears is how homes ignite. Often, people fail to consider embers. FireSmart BC estimates that at least half of homes burned in wildfires are ignited by embers. Lay shared a video that demonstrated how embers can kindle homes via gutters and upper decks.

Lay is also working on the FireSmart Neighbourhood Recognition program, which officially recognizes communities that have taken steps to reduce their risks to wildfires. Criteria for becoming recognized includes having a FireSmart assessment done, creating a neighbourhood FireSmart committee, and conducting FireSmart events each year.


John Cathro and Mark Elder presented on the Kaslo & Area D Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan.

The CWRP is a five-year plan that identifies wildfire risks within and surrounding a community and provides an action plan to reduce them. It concentrates on the wildfire-urban interface (WUI), the area where human development meets the natural environment.

Like FireSmart, the CWRP emphasizes fuel management and roots itself in the seven FireSmart principles. Unlike FireSmart, which concerns private land and homeowners, the CWRP focuses on Crown and publicly owned land, including municipal.

“This plan provides the folks at the back – agencies, elected officials, the fire chief, the regional district – with a clear set of priorities on what to do [to improve wildfire resiliency],” said Cathro. “It gets into the big picture aspects of how a community reduces the risk of wildfire.”

Cathro, in partnership with B.A. Blackwell & Associates, was contracted by the RDCK to create the CWRP.

Aspects of the plan include identifying artificial and natural water sources, making sure firefighting equipment is compatible, emergency planning, and developing fuel management prescriptions.

Mark Elder, a forester with Cathro Consulting, talked about vegetation management. He’s been involved in identifying high risk areas within Kaslo’s WUI, along with implementing field work for the CWRP such as fuel modification prescriptions.

Elder shared maps of Kaslo’s WUI and sections where the Village and the RDCK will be collaborating on Crown land vegetation management. There were also maps depicting what work has already been done, and potential sites for more mitigation work.

Grace Kyle of BC Wildfire Service spoke up regarding the effectiveness of fuel modification prescriptions.

“We had done a large prescribed burn [outside of Cranbrook] last spring and a wildfire burned right up to the edge of the prescription site,” she said. “The fire behaviour just completely dropped off. It shows that this work does work. It’s not that it stops the fire, but it allows for a safe place for first responders to work. It allows for easier access to the edge of the fire, and allows first responders to focus on other parts of the fire to manage it more easily.”

Community forest

Jeff Reyden offered a short presentation on what the Kaslo & District Community Forest Society has been up to.

Reyden shared maps outlining the society’s tenure and areas where it’s performed wildfire risk reduction management. Though the terrain around Kaslo is mountainous and steep, he said, the KDCFS has still done quite a bit of work.

In the past few months, KDCFS administered a fuel management prescription in Lardeau, along with a few community field tours of the area.

Cathro and Elder recently completed a prescription for an area in Lardeau, called Miner’s Road. KDCFS will begin mostly manual fuel treatment on 30 hectares of land this year.

In 2023, KDCFS worked on the Mount Buchanan fire access trail, which runs above Kaslo. This involved falling danger trees, about eight hectares of fuel management, and identifying water sources. Also last year, it completed the Jimi Crack Corn project, which involved 10 hectares of risk reduction treatment.

“We’re looking at access a lot now, after the Briggs Creek wildfire,” said Reyden. “If we don’t have access, it’s hard to fight wildfires.”

Some access improvements include fixing up roads, clearing brush, and creating dual-purpose recreation/wildfire access trails.

Rachael Lesosky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice