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Bearberry wildfire preparedness guide in works

“The Bearberry area traditionally hasn’t had a wildlife preparedness guide,” director of operational services told council

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - Mountain View County council has directed administration to apply for a $15,000 Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta grant to fund the preparation of a wildfire preparedness guide for the Bearberry area on the county’s western boundary.

The move came by way of motion at the recent regularly scheduled council meeting.

The association has requested expressions of interest for the fall intake of the FireSmart Grant Program, administration said in a briefing note to council.

The county used funding from the program in 2013 and 2020 to update the Water Valley and Bergen area wildfire preparedness guides, council heard.

Administration recommended council apply for funding in 2021 to prepare a new plan for the northwest corner of the county from the Red Deer River west.

A motion of council is required to proceed with the grant application.

“The Bearberry area traditionally hasn’t had a wildlife preparedness guide,” director of operational services Ryan Morrison told council.

Letters of support for the grant application have already been obtained from the Sundre fire department and the provincial government, he said.

The guides outline such things as where sprinklers should be placed and were water can be obtained, he said.

Coun. Angela Aalbers asked if a public information meeting would be held as part of the guide preparation. In response Morrison said, “That is not something that is within the project scope, but if that is something council wishes administration to do, we can do that.”

Coun. Al Kemmere said asked if the guides are circulated to residents in the areas covered by the document. 

“There is information in them that would be of interest to the public,” said Kemmere. 

In response Morrison said, “The plans themselves go to the fire chief and they go to the wildfire branch in the provincial government. So that’s where these plans live. There is no harm bringing them to council so council can view them.”

Coun. Aalbers put forward a second motion that council direct administration to “engage with the public on all three wildfire preparedness guides” in place in the county. 

She added, “I think the public would really appreciate this information and knowing that we are prepared in some of these areas. If it is technical I know we can make it palatable for the public and it would be an excellent way to engage with the public over this stuff and bring more awareness to things like this.”

If the grant application for 2021 is successful, consultant Montane Forest Management Ltd. will complete the work, council heard. 

“The county will provide the consultant with the GIS data, location of the buildings and the tax roll so we can do the updates as rapidly as possible,” said chief administrative officer Jeff Holmes.

If the county is not successful in the 2021 grant application, the municipality will continue to apply for funding in the future, he said.

Counc. Greg Harris called the guides valuable in terms of public safety.

“These things are more than just nice to have. They are absolutely critical to the safety of our residents and I would like to see us consider if this grant doesn’t go through, I would like us to look towards budget 2022 and find a way to fund this is the grant is turned down," said Harris.

Reeve Bruce Beattie said he agreed.

Holmes said, “We will have a project sheet in our budget and if the grant doesn’t come through then council will have the opportunity to change the funding source to whatever source council sees as appropriate at that time.”

Both motions passed unanimously. All councillor were present at the Sept. 8 council meeting.

Dan Singleton

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