The FireSmart program was established to educate Canadians about the various initiatives they can pursue to protect their families, communities and properties from wildfire risk. The program is spread out over seven key disciplines: vegetation management, public education, legislation, development, planning, cross-training, and inter-agency cooperation. When a comprehensive wildfire risk reduction effort is pursued across all seven disciplines, the wildfire risk faced by communities located in the wildland urban interface can be greatly reduced. Partnerships and inter-agency collaborations between residents, community associations, local industries, municipal governments, municipal fire departments and other groups are also key to efficiently deploying a strong FireSmart strategy. An important and ongoing focus of the program has been on homeowners. Homeowners are encouraged to assess their risk of loss through a formal assessment. Proven risk reduction practices are identified to protect individual structures from fire damage. These include structural elements, like fire resistant roofing and siding, and vegetation management focused on zones of protection around structures. In the spring of 2011, 52 wildfires were reported in the Slave Lake region of Alberta over a four-day period. During this extreme wildfire situation, approximately 23 wildfires presented an important threat to communities, including the Town of Slave Lake. The Flat Top Complex of wildfires was particularly destructive, resulting in a total of 484 single-family homes and many other structures destroyed throughout the Slave Lake region. At the time, this represented the largest loss of private homes from a single natural disaster in Canadian history. The first of the Flat Top Complex of wildfires entered the Town of Slave lake. Following this event, the Town developed a strategy around FireSmart principles to reduce future wildfire risks for the community.
After suffering severe damage due to the Flat Top Fire Complex in 2011, the Town of Slave Lake, Alberta, undertook an aggressive and forward-looking approach to fire risk mitigation. The Flat Top Fire Complex entered the town from the surrounding woods of Alberta’ boreal forest. It caused the destruction of 484 single-family homes and many other structures and forced an evacuation of the town. At the time, this represented the largest loss of private homes from a single natural disaster in Canadian history. Following the disaster, the town’s fire department went door-to-door to help educate citizens about FireSmart practices and how they could better protect their homes against ignition. These visits were also supplemented by training courses and risk reduction workshops. The town also invested nearly $7 million in vegetation clearances to help reduce the potential fuels for another fire in the surrounding areas. Additionally, they allocated substantial resources to improving operational response capacity and efficiency. As a result of these measures, in 2015, the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River, which includes the Town of Slave Lake, received the FireSmart Community Protection Achievement Award, which recognizes Canadian communities dedicated to reducing wildfire risk on their landscape through the implementation of FireSmart solutions.