Permits for Maple Ridge wildfire areas planned
If you want to live near the forest in a new subdivision, you’ll likely have to dig a bit deeper into your pockets in the future.
A new wildfire development permit area plan under consideration by Maple Ridge will require higher standards for developers who build next to the wild areas.
If council approves the wildfire permit areas later this year, some homes in new subdivisions will have to have 10-metre buffer areas separating their back walls from a forest, while builders and developers will have to hire a forester when they make their landscaping plans.
Homes right on the forest edge could be required to have roof and siding sprinklers that can be activated to keep a house safe during risky times.
Environmental planner Rod Stott said Wednesday it’s worth protecting the trees, which provide many benefits to cities such as cooling the air and serving as conduits to circulate moisture in the ground.
The wildfire development permit area will only apply to new projects proposed after the plan comes into place, not existing neighbourhoods. However, someone renovating or modifying their house would have to follow wildfire plan requirements.
The requirements offer benefits both ways, Stott pointed out, noting they also protect the forest from fires that originate within buildings.
The areas proposed to have wildfire development permit areas include Thornhill and the area east of 280th Street in east Maple Ridge.
New developments in the mountainous areas north of 132nd Avenue would also have to have a wildfire development permit.
According to a Maple Ridge Fire Department presentation to a builder’s form last month, 60 per cent of Maple Ridge either lies within or next to the forest.
It cites two major recent incidents where wildfires devastated towns, in Slave Lake, Alta. in 2011, when 374 properties were destroyed, and in Kelowna in 2003, when 239 properties were levelled.
Total cost for both blazes was estimated at $2 billion.
Some requirements of the wildfire permit area would include use of fire-resistent and fire-smart landscaping, including the absence of bark mulch and wood debris near homes.
Non-combustible fences or lattices near homes, use of cement board or Hardie board, metal, stone, brick or stucco exterior siding, rather than vinyl, while roofs would be either treated cedar, or fibre glass/asphalt shingles or concrete or clay tiles.
Fire chief Peter Grootendorst later noted that Hardie board or concrete board only would be required on homes that directly face the forest, on the one side that faces the bush. Another option, would be to have sprinklers one that side of the house.
He pointed out the area plan is still in draft form and more consultation will take place before council gets a report.
In the Lower Mainland, only the District of North Vancouver has completed such an wildfire development permit area. Kelowna and Langford, on Vancouver Island, have similar plans.
The wildfire development permit area is one of the recommendations in Maple Ridge’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan approved five years ago.
It’s a matter of learning from other area cities, such as Kelowna, say Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin.
So far, he’s had no feedback from builders or developers about cost increases from such measures.
“I think everybody got a lesson a week ago,” when four homes under construction burned to the ground while another home that was occupied was damaged extensively.
“It just went up like a roman candle,” Daykin added. While costs may increase, it’s better than taking a chance and losing everything, he added.
Council will review feedback from the information meetings this fall before approving the wildfire development permit area plan.