A $150,000 grant has been awarded by the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA) to the town to complete a phase of its wildfire hazard reduction plan this summer. Tonight, approval is being sought for an additional application. 

Fire Chief Shawn Polley says Cochrane Fire Services were successful in their most recent application to fund 100 per cent of the work that will begin to unfold as early as mid-May in the communities of Bow Ridge, Bow Meadows, Crawford Ranch and Precedence, considered to pose the highest risk in Cochrane.

It involved about nine hectares of mixed species with plenty of lodgepole pine and dead, damaged and diseased trees, says Chief Polley.

"Part of this prescription plan will be a little bit of burning on site, a little bit of mulching, some chipping in that area and some species conversion, which is really a new opportunity that has been opened up by FRIAA," says Chief Polley.

Species conversion will assist with flood and drought mitigation as well as erosion control along the Bow River.

They'll also be planting about 400 aspen trees and introducing about 50 Burr oak.

The burr oak is about a 200-year tree, so were trying to create several generations ahead of good ecological value." 

READ MOREOver $100,000 in FireSmart funding sought

The damaged or dead trees are at the end of their lifecycle, he explains, and they're in the 100-year range.

"We've had some ice jam flooding that went in through the Bow Meadows, Bow Ridge, and Crawford Ranch area, so that's some of that trail restoration," says Polley.

The plan being unfolded has about a 10-year life and was championed by former fire chief Dave Humphrey in 2018. Beyond that, identified hazards may change as trees age or fall, and will be heavily impacted by development, human activity on the landscape, and population growth.

"The hazard does change as we go through development in different areas," he says, pointing to South Bow as an example.

"South Bow was only on a piece of paper, but it's coming fruition now. Being a grassland area, it's certainly going to change and be more of a developed homes area."

He says Cochrane fortunately doesn't have an extensive wildland urban interface, where houses are located in the deep forest.

FRIAA has had a substantial impact upon the FireSmart programs in Alberta. Here is Cochrane, they provided funding to complete the wildfire mitigation plan and now is lending its support to gets boots on the grounds to complete the work.

Should town council give the OK, the next grant application is for a project that targets approximately 6.1 hectares in the Historic Cochrane Ranche and the Cochrane Heights community. One additional treatment will be proposed for the land adjacent to the Lofts on the Bow building on George Fox Drive.

The protection of communities from wildfire has come a long way from the days of cutting fire breaks and calling it a day. It's now about building resilience, looking at the ecology, completing restoration. Polley says its heavily influenced by the learnings and initiatives of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation.

"They have high value around the land and the landscapes that they're on. So how do we provide the right kind of education to ensure that being stewards of the land becomes not just about the preservation of trees, but of the entire ecosystem?"

He says Stoney Nakoda has done an enormous amount of work on their eastern boundary and our western boundary.

'That's what I'm excited about is that. We're going to be working with the Stony First Nation crews, get them on the landscape here and utilize their traditional knowledge to do the work."

Key to the wildfire hazard reduction plan is an extensive public awareness and education program that will begin to unfold at the May 3 to 5 trade show. It will be followed by other community engagement, like door knocking and participating in community association meetings.

"We're hoping to start work in mid mid-May. That's why it's important to have get our messages out between now and start of the project. We're definitely looking forward to getting out into the community."

There may also be an opening ceremony for the project's launch involving the First Nations.