Located in the middle of the boreal forest, The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is at an increased risk of being affected by wildfires. The FireSmart™ Home Action Rebate Program provided rebates to residents for home upgrades recommended by a FireSmart free home assessment. Airborne fire embers are a significant threat to homeowners and often cause extensive property damage. By upgrading and replacing highly flammable materials with FireSmart approved options, homeowners can reduce their risk of serious property damage.
The program was well received by the community and there was significant interest to participate. A record-breaking number of FireSmart home assessments were completed in 2022 across the municipality. These assessments provided homeowners with one-on-one information sessions tailored to their individual and unique properties.
As a result, 51 homeowners received rebates and completed upgrades and replacements on roofs and decks reducing the wildfire risk to their property.
Considerations for adopting a FireSmartTM Home Action Rebate Program
Assessment and Rebate Program
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo saw a lot of success with their program and learned a lot along the way. The FireSmart™ home assessment and rebate program could be implemented across many municipalities across Canada. Key considerations found by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo include:
- Taking into account rural residents and their potential limitations. One challenge the program saw was limited availability of contractors in rural areas to perform eligible upgrades. Many rural residents were interested in the program however the program had ended before many residents were able to complete work. Allotting a specific amount of rebate funds for rural residents may help ensure they have the opportunity to participate.
- Determining the optimal rebate amount. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo had a limited dollar amount to be used for rebates. The program generated more interest than anticipated and many interested residents were unable to receive a rebate. Providing smaller rebates to more residents may have extended their reach and would have allowed more residents to improve wildfire resiliency on their properties.
- Expand qualifying home upgrades. Eligible upgrades for this program included roofs and decks. By expanding the list of eligible upgrades to include improvements such as windows, fences, vegetation and more, additional homeowners may have been able to participate and complete upgrades to their homes.
Overall, the program was successful in helping close the gap on residential wildfire preparedness and resilience. The community has a greater understanding of the steps they can take to protect their properties as well as a heightened interest in ways they can further improve resiliency across the community. Many residents have inquired about the continuation of the program. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is hoping to continue with the program.