An implementation plan will soon be completed on what actions should be taken to make Cochrane FireSmart.

Suzanne Gaida, senior manager for Community Services, says that an implementation plan is currently being finalized and follows an an initial community assessment, both completed through a FireSmart grant.

"We'll be bringing that forward to council in the future around what our action plan is and looking to complete some grants to see if we can get some of the work done," says Gaida.

Late last week, the province announced a substantial increase in funding for FireSmart grants and will be spending $45 million over three years, with $10.5 million going directly to Fort McMurray for fire prevention. The aim is to reduce the risk of wildfire and the funds will help provide communities with  tools and tactics such as education, vegetation management, legislation and planning, development considerations, interagency co-operation and emergency planning.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, believes Banff-Cochrane MLA Cam Westhead, and that's exactly why the province has beefed up the funding.

"In terms of investing a small amount of money, relatively speaking, on trying to prevent wildifires and raise awareness hopefully we can prevent those kinds of tragedies from happening elsewhere," says Westhead.

Currently, the only FireSmart community in Westhead's riding is Waiprious and he believes there are many other communities that should consider participating in the program.

"I know that a lot of the communities in Banff-Cochrane are at risk of wildfire and if anybody wants to discuss that I'd certainly be willing to sit down with them," says Westhead.

While Cochrane isn't a forested community, the threat is wildfire is present with the natural grasslands here. It isn't uncommon for grass fires to be battled by firefighters each spring and late in the fall.

"For a lot of years, from my understanding, FireSmart was really focussed on forested communities, which we're not really, we're more of a natural grassland," says Gaida. "But then they opened up the program to recognize that it's important for all communities that have an rural interface."

Westhead says municipalities and nonprofit groups are eligible tyo apply for a community grants of up to $100,000.

"I would certainly encourage folks to come together and put an application in," he says.

 

 

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