Several approaches can and should be used to reduce the risk of ignition at the property level during a wildfire. Several opportunities involve the building itself, including the importance of using fire-resistant roofing, siding materials and chimney spark arresters. It is equally critical to consider landscaping strategies around the house to eliminate any plants and trees that could act as fuel during a wildfire. Landscaping affects the risk of ignition, can introduce pathways to spread fire and may provide fuel to sustain the fire. Xeriscaping and FireSmart landscaping are two approaches that can be used to reduce ignition risk and the spread of fire around a property. These strategies promote the use of plants that do not require a great amount of water to grow and as such tend to do well in dry climates. In addition to using less water, a Xeriscape garden requires less maintenance, including less weeding, fertilizing, pruning and mowing. Further, as these plants have the ability to conserve water, it makes them fire resistant, which contributes to reduce fire risk around a property. Kamloops is a city of approximately 100,000 inhabitants located in south-central British Columbia. This region is characterized by a dry climate and the presence of a predominantly coniferous forest cover, both increasing the likelihood of a wildfire in the area.
The City of Kamloops, British Columbia, is embracing a creative landscaping program designed to increase resilience to wildfire while simultaneously decreasing the amount of water used by residential properties. Located in the Thompson Valley of the British Columbia interior, Kamloops is classified as a semi-arid region that is prone to fires. While the City is attempting to increase fire resilience in the community, there are substantial legal hurdles in place preventing them from enforcing resilience-enhancing measures on private properties. Changes of this kind must be enacted willingly by the property owner. To that end, the City has undertaken a campaign to convince citizens of the practical and aesthetic benefits of xeriscaping. This is a particular subset of landscaping that focuses on the use of plants that are designed for arid environments. In addition to needing less water (and thus reducing local water consumption rates), these plants also retain water for longer than most non-arid plants, helping to increase their fire resilience. The fire resilience of this landscaping design can be further improved with the application of general FireSmart principles, which are also being communicated to the public. The program is relatively new, but there have been at least 50 recorded fire resilience assessments conducted by the City for homeowners to date.