FireSmart: Zone One Challenge!

Janet Moje
It doesn’t take long to reduce wildfire risks. In the above photo: 20 minutes to rake up 6 bags of pine needles; 40 minutes to trim branches to 2 meters from ground; 20 mintes to pick up branches and scrap wood.
It doesn’t take long to reduce wildfire risks. In the above photo: 20 minutes to rake up 6 bags of pine needles; 40 minutes to trim branches to 2 meters from ground; 20 mintes to pick up branches and scrap wood.
Janet Moje photo

In the last article we did a brief update of our path to becoming a FireSmart community. This final article of the series we issue a challenge to all residents of Valemount.

The weather is warming up! The snow will soon be melting! Are you ready to get working on some FireSmart principles? Let’s get busy cleaning up the zone that will have the greatest impact. Zone One.

The "Biggest difference between surviving and burned homes was the amount of veg/fuel in Priority Zone 1," concluded Alan Westhaver, ForestWise Environmental Consulting Ltd. after investigating the Fort McMurray wildfire.

Homes that don't survive: up to 80-90% is caused by embers that find fuels to ignite within 10m of the home.

Homes that do survive: 85-90% of homes without flammable roofs and 10m of clearance will survive a wildfire.

Anything you do to improve Zone One will make a difference. The more you can do, the bigger the difference!

Step 1: The Zone One Boundary

Mark a three-metre (10 foot) line around the exterior of your house, stairs, decks and any buildings within that zone. This is easy to do right now since you can just mark the snow. This will give you a visual of Zone One boundaries, and any overlap with your neighbours that you need to be aware of.

Step 2: Your Home

  • The roof should be a non-combustible material. Any shingles that are curling is a hazard because they can catch and hold embers and should be repaired or replaced. Valleys that collect debris, gutters and sheltered gables need to be cleaned.
  • Attic vents should be screened to keep embers out.
  • The base around your house should be non-combustible. Skirting around mobile homes should not be wood. Any venting should be screened. Embers will collect at the base of your house and smolder.
  • Siding should be free of holes to prevent embers from going behind it and igniting any wood beneath. Any unfinished areas of siding should be filled in.
  • Thermal pane windows protect your house more than single pane if you are planning on switching out old windows. Repair any screens that can trap blowing embers.
  • Check for metal flashing where wooden decks, stairs or fencing meets the house. Add if needed.
  • Replace wooden posts with metal ones.
  • Under stairs and decks, check and remove any combustible debris the wind has blown in. Embers will follow the same path.

Step 3: The Inner Ring - The first 1.5 metres (4 feet).

  • Remove any debris that has collected in this area such as pine needles or leaves.
  • Remove any hazardous plants such as cedars, junipers, or any other woody, dry bushes.
  • Trim back any dead grasses or spent flower stalks.
  • Change any ground covers that are combustible such as bark mulch.
  • Trim any tree branches so they do not overhang the house and are 2 meters (6 feet) from the ground. Remove any coniferous trees from this area.
  • Wooden furniture, decorations, stacked firewood, etc. should be moved outside of this area.
  • Keep lawns cut and watered during dry weather, an hour a day is recommended.

Step 4: The Outer Ring - 1.5 - 3 metres (4-10 feet).

  • Rake up combustible debris (needles, leaves, bark mulch)
  • Trim back dead grass, flower stalks.
  • Remove any hazardous plants such as junipers, cedars and other woody, dry bushes.
  • Trim tree branches to 2 metres (6 feet) from the ground and 3 metres (10 feet) between branch tips, remove smaller trees to space them adequately.
  • Large wooden objects (furniture, stacked firewood) are best to place outside this zone.
  • If this zone overlaps into your neighbours yard, work with them to reduce fire risk in the area.
  • Keep lawns cut and watered during dry weather. An hour a day is recommended.

Step 5: Mitigate!

Once you pick a spot to work on, take a picture before you begin

If you need assistance, contact the Valemount FireSmart Coordinator to schedule a time when volunteers can help. Email: ValemountFireSmart@protonmail.com 

After it is completed, take another picture!

Pick another area from steps 2 - 4, and do it again.

This event runs from March 1st to June 30th.

The more times you enter, the better your chance at getting a rooftop sprinkler!

"The most effective way to lower the wildfire risk in Valemount is for private property owners to introduce FireSmart principles on their property," said Amanda Reynolds, BC Wildfire Services.


Win a Roof Top Sprinkler!   How to enter:

  • Take a before/after picture of the area you worked on. 
  • Send it to ValemountFireSmart@protonmail.com or drop off printed picture to The Valley Sentinel. Include your name, phone number and email address.

Event runs from March 1st to June 30th.


Enter as often as you wish, but each before/after picture must be of a new work area.


Get ready, set, GO!