The people who reside in the small Summer Village of Waiparous love living in a treed community, but they're also mindful of the risk of wildfire it brings.

Located 32 km northwest of Cochrane in Bighorn County, the summer village became one of Alberta's first FireSmart communities in 2008. To this day, it's resource and proactive citizens have created a model other communities would be wise to follow.

Waiparous residents recently held their annual National Wildlife Community Awareness Day (WCPD).

"We had about 40 community members there, and they came to work," says Waiparous CAO. Suzanne Gaida, "Every year it's a little different but they get their hands dirty, and they did a pump practice."

pump practiceDuring wildfire preparedness day they held a pump practice that included rolling out hoses and making sure the pump was ready for use should it be called upon. (photo submitted)

Added is a social component of a barbecue lunch and draws for some great prizes to bring the community together. This year they had the opportunity to welcome a new resident to the fold.

Substantial donations were also received from Inter Pipeline, Nootka Tree Services, Equipment Express, FireSmart Canada and FRIAA for the highly-regarded exercise.

She says the community is held in high regard by FireSmart Canada and Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA).

Typically, they get $500 from FireSmart Canada to help stage WCPD, but this year was selected as one of only 10 communities across Canada to get a little more.

"We didn't apply for it, they just send it to us and said you're doing such a good job, here's an extra $250."

The summer village also offers free FireSmart assessments for homeowners, thanks to FRIAA. They have a consultant who is available to inspect homes and provide a confidential report to the homeowners.

There's more. Waiparous completed an extensive FireSmart Plan in 2008 that has been updated twice, the last time in 2018.

Its most recent vegetation management program began last year, thanks to FRIAA funding. Gaida says they've been successful in receiving more FRIAA funding to complete the balance of the work this winter.

The summer village has 72 residential lots on average a half-acre in size. There are about 56 permanent residents. It won't grow beyond that, not that wildfire cares--it doesn't recognize corporate boundaries anyway.

Waiparous was last placed on evacuation alert in 2018, and it isn't the first time.

"The community is very aware of the risks that they have," says Gaida. "The amount of traffic that goes out to the Waiparous/Ghost backcountry on Hwy. 40 is unbelievable. The people of Waiparous know it just takes one abandoned fire to start and if the winds are right, they could lose everything."

"There are a lot of long-time residents there. This is their home, and they want to protect it. They love their trees, but they know there's a lot of stuff that needs to be done, and they want to be part of it."