The changes are based on the understanding that a wildfire is more likely to spread to homes in the city by an ember shower that could travel up to two kilometres, rather than by a wall of flame approaching the town. File photo

Nelson creates rules for wildfire resistant landscaping and building

New legislation will help to protect residences from fires started by wildfire ember showers

Nelson city council has changed some of its construction and landscaping bylaws to help make the city more resistant to wildfire.

The changes are based on the understanding that a fire in the city is more likely to be started by an ember shower that could travel up to two kilometres, rather than by a wall of flame advancing on the city. In other words, the entire community is at risk from a nearby wildfire, not just the homes adjacent to the forest.

The new restrictions are all based on FireSmart, a nationally accepted set of principles about fire behaviour and how to lower fire risk to structures.

Mayor John Dooley told the Star he’s pleased council made this move, and the next step is education.

“It is one thing to have these ideas and pass the bylaws,” he said, “and a whole other story to get the message out to people so they understand the need to make this kind of shift.”

City-wide planting restriction

Under the revised bylaw, no coniferous trees and bushes may be planted within 1.5 metres of homes and structures. This new rule will apply not just to new construction but to new landscaping surrounding existing buildings.

Failure to comply could lead to a fine of $200 but Dooley says enforcement is not the issue; it’s education and awareness.

“There is a penalty, but enforcement does not work very well,” he said. “But we will be checking. Good information and consultation works better than enforcement, though.”

Landscaping

Another restriction will apply only in the city’s new Development Permit Area 3, located around the outermost parts of the city that border on forests (see map below) and it applies to new buildings only.

A non-combustible surface must extend at least 1.5 metres beyond a new building including outbuildings and decks. This surface could include gravel, brick or concrete, but not woody shrubs or trees.

Fire resistant plants and materials as well as maintenance for existing trees and vegetation must extend to 10 meters from the building. Within that 10 metre zone, coniferous evergreen trees that are to be retained in this zone must be pruned to keep branches two metres above the ground and spaced three metres between crowns.

Building materials

A third restriction will also apply only in Development Permit Area 3 (see map) for new buildings.

Wood shingles or shakes will not be permitted. Eaves, attics and under-floor openings must be screened. Wood and vinyl siding will not be permitted. Windows must be double-paned or tempered.

There are also restrictions related to chimneys, decks, and porches.

“That is a huge shift,” Dooley said. “Fire retardant materials are critical.”

He said vinyl siding is made from petrochemicals “and we want to reduce the use of those products. They have aesthetic appeal but they have no structural integrity or value against fire.”

On all new development permits (for a house, an addition or a deck, for example) within Development Permit Area 3, the city will require a covenant be registered on title ensuring property owners build and maintain their properties in accordance with FireSmart principles.

Increased awareness

Dooley said that in 2010 the city carried out wildfire fuel reduction in some forested areas within city limits, such as in Art Gibbon Park, the forested area above the cemetery, and in the Fort Sheppard Drive area.

Awareness of the need to fireproof the city has gradually increased since then, he said.

“We knew as time went by, with information coming from public works and the fire chief, that we had a lot of work to do within our municipality as well. This is the type of work that residents themselves should be taking to protect their own homes and their neighbours.”

Dooley said city planning staff can give residents advice on fire resistant landscaping or building materials.

 

Except for the city-wide regulation forbidding the planting of coniferous trees near structures, the new bylaw restrictions apply only in the yellow-shaded area on this map, known as Development Permit Area 3. Map courtesy of City of Nelson

Just Posted

Last stop: The inside story of Queen City Shuttle and Charters’ closure

Former employees open up about the Nelson company’s final days

How the Queen City Shuttle and Charters’ closure affected you

Here’s what readers had to say about the company’s shutdown

LETTER: Clearing up men’s conference confusion

From conference organizer Jeff Zak

IODE and Kootenay Emergency Response celebrate partnership

IODE has pledged $30,000 to KERPA over the next three years

Andrew Bellerby out as RDCK’s regional fire chief

Bellerby held the job since January 2016

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Two toddler siblings found drowned on First Nation in Alberta

The siblings were found drowned on their family’s property, according to RCMP

Most Read