Botwood is a town of almost 3,000 people in north-central Newfoundland. It is located on a natural deep water harbour. Beginning in 1908, the community provided a critical transportation link for the pulp and paper mill located at Grand Falls. Botwood is surrounded by water to the North, East, and South, and by a large forested area at its western boundary. A number of major wildfires were experienced in the region near the community over the past forty years, with most occurring during spring and fall, when there is increased activity in close proximity to forested areas. Before implementing comprehensive wildfire risk reduction strategies in municipalities, it is important to understand the hazard and the areas of vulnerability inside and around the community. Conducting a Community Hazard and Risk Assessment helps identify specific actions required to improve preparedness and reduce wildfire risks faced by the community. An Assessment allows communities to determine the hazard level in a specific area by examining the wildland fuel complexes that could support combustion. The vulnerability of these wildland fuel complexes is determined through the type of vegetation, its arrangement, volume, condition and location. Once this portion of the analysis is completed, the overall wildfire risk, which represents the likelihood of a wildfire igniting through natural or human causes, can be estimated, and would include areas in the community that are particularly vulnerable and could benefit from risk mitigation actions.
Having faced a number of major wildfires over the past decade, in 2018 the Town of Botwood, Newfoundland undertook more aggressive measures to reduce their risk and increase their resilience to wildfire. An important step taken by the town was to contact FireSmart and arrange for a presentation on methods to reduce the likelihood of fire transmission into and throughout an urban space. Armed with knowledge of what measures can be undertaken to reduce the risk of fire, officials and fire department workers undertook the tasks of implementing these measures themselves and also transmitting this knowledge to the citizens of the town. The town undertook vegetation management practices to reduce the amount of fuel available for fire, operational improvements to improve response, and education campaigns to enlist citizen participation and raise awareness of the individual’s capacity to improve the safety of their home and their community. All of this information was aided by a better understanding of threatened areas obtained through a detailed hazard and risk assessment program. As a result of these actions, the town of Botwood has been recognized as a local champion in fire preparedness and is on the path towards becoming the first officially recognized FireSmart community in Newfoundland.