Earlier, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell suggested the implementation of community wildfire protection plans was a local government responsibility. But, in Peace River, the regional district is stressing their residents' responsibility. In an interview with Public Eye, community services manager Ron Storie said "much of the Peace is in a low interface-risk area because most of it is farmland where the rural population lives." Nevertheless, the district will soon be doing demonstration fuel treatment projects in at least three areas, covering about six hectares. And those projects are meant to "show people, 'Yeah, you can this. This is what it will look like after you finish.' And that way, rather than hiring a forester and going to some expense ourselves, we hope that by seeing what we've done, they'll just go ahead and do that."
"The rural directors have taken a bit of a different approach than most people," Mr. Storie explained. "In the Interior, you're going to find there's been a lot of (fuel) treatment in and around the communities. And the rural directors here of the mind rural residents are really responsible for FireSmarting their own property."
"We were actually going the route of FireSmarting all around the communities at one point. But we started examining the real root causes of much of this. And the feeling was if people don't FireSmart their own property, we're going to have houses that burn down, as was the case in 2003 and what you're seeing in California too."
"It's a very difficult thing to do," he continued, referring to fuel treatment projects - the thinning or clearing of wooded areas that, if left alone, could increase the chances or severity of a forest fire.
"From what I've seen - I lived down in the Interior during the 2003 wildfires - and certainly the approach they're taking down there might be a good approach. But, at the end of the day, the thing I like about up here is the onus is really going to be on rural residents to FireSmart their own property. But whether that's the right thing or not, that's the political direction we've been given."
"I wouldn't say it's a cost decision," he added. "But, ultimately, you are responsible for whether your house burns down."