Situated along the north shore of the Burrard Inlet along the base of the Coastal Mountain Range, the District of North Vancouver is approximately 161 square km of land area, with a population of more than 85,000 that is perched right at the doorstep of wildlands. The threat of wildfires is always present, especially during the summer. Community Wildfire Protection Plans enable the execution of preventative strategies that reduce the risk of losses from wildfires. One aspect of such plans are special requirements for new development in locations referred to as Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Areas. These areas are characterized by certain physical features such as steep slopes, floodplains and forest cover, and coupled with their exposure to extreme weather. Permit Areas are susceptible to hazardous conditions, including wildfires. Any new development within Permit Areas is managed to minimize the risk of loss of life from wildfires, protect the forests and respect environmental considerations. Permit Areas provide municipalities with the opportunity to proactively manage the conditions that determine fire behaviour, preserve ecosystem services and ecological assets of forests for future generations, and minimize adverse impacts of post-fire hazards such as landslides and debris flows. By offering guidance for construction and materials requirements for new developments, such plans help ensure that municipalities build stronger and safer neighbourhoods.
The District of North Vancouver has embraced a fire-resilience policy program that requires buildings within areas exposed to the threat of wildfire to be constructed with fire-resistant materials. Located on the North Shore of the Burrard Inlet and bordering the coastal forests all along its Northern Side, the District of North Vancouver has many neighbourhoods that are directly threatened by wildfire. There have been successive iterations of some version of a wildfire protection plan that have been, and are being, continually refined. The two main outcomes of these plans that are analyzed here relate to fuel manage and ignition reduction. The newest plans call for designated ‘Permit Areas’ in which new construction must minimize the risk of loss of life from wildfires, protect the forests and respect environmental considerations. These construction standards are further aided by a fuel management strategy that has managed over 70 hectares of vegetated landscape in order to reduce the amount of ignitable materials that may pose a threat to homes and critical infrastructure. Though not yet tested by the encroachment of an active wildfire, these measure have managed to earn accolades internationally, having earned the Sasakawa Award for leadership in disaster risk reduction and gaining recognition as a Role Model City with the United Nations’ Resilient Cities campaign.