Neighbourhood initiatives are crucial for ensuring the safety of individuals and properties located within the wildland urban interface. This includes public education and development of a wildfire hazard reduction plan. Research by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and others show that when individual homeowners implement FireSmart practices, such as removing flammable vegetation and landscaping with fire resistant materials, they drastically increase their property’s resilience against the risk of wildfire damage. The responsibility and cost of implementing these recommendations, however, usually fall onto individual property owners. This can be challenging for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, ill, and fragile, who may have limited capacity to contribute to FireSmart recommendation. The City of Elliot Lake, with a population of about 11,000, is located north of Lake Huron and 161 kilometres west of Sudbury Ontario. The city suffered an economic downturn in the late 1990s as a result of the decline and, ultimately, the disappearance of the mining community. Elliot Lake has reinvented itself as a community dedicated to retirement living, waterfront cottages and seasonal destinations. With the cooperation of the Ministry of Natural Resources, a subsequent Lakeshore community arose 20 minutes north of the city itself.
With an increasing awareness of the dangers posed by wildfires in communities adjacent to the boreal forests, a group of concerned citizens of the City of Elliot Lake, beginning in 2015, started to take a proactive approach to increasing the resilience of their community to such events. One of the first steps undertaken was to enlist the help of the Provincial Liaison to help the community adapt the standards for fire resilience as laid out in the FireSmart program. The citizens created the Elliot Lake Lakeshore FireSmart Community (ELLFC) to help disseminate information about individual participatory actions that one can undertake in the FireSmart program. The group also received support from the provincial government, which made representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry available to help lead education programs. As a community with many retirees, the ELLFC recognized the need to tailor their approach to the methods most relevant to demographics at hand, they group embraced a multimedia that was notably effective in galvanizing public support and participation. In addition to the benefits of an enhanced resilience to fires in the wildland-urban interface, this work has also been officially recognized by the FireSmart organization, which granted the City of Elliot Lake the honour of being Ontario’s first FireSmart Canada Community.