A film making the rounds in Canada sometime soon may have some familiar faces in it. Dennis and Rose Vercholuk, for example, doing FireSmart work on their Marten Beach lot.
Or Dan Tarney of the same hamlet, doing something similar.
Tarney is the local coordinator for FireSmart community clean-up events, which have been going on in Marten Beach for the past six years or so. The program – done each year in conjunction with a team of volunteers, plus several agencies – has caught the attention of FireSmart Canada. It turns out not that many communities in the country have done as much, as consistently, as Marten Beach to reduce the wildfire risk. FireSmart Canada thought this worth acknowledging, and designated Marten Beach as a ‘FireSmart Community’ in 2015.
It’s one of the first two communities in Alberta to get that designation, the other being Banff.
Tarney will be the first to say the success of the program has a lot to do with community partnerships. Every year, the regional fire service comes out. So do personnel from Alberta Ag. & Forestry, pitching in to remove hazardous trees, chipping woody debris, giving sprinkling demonstrations, do FireSmart assessments on private property and the like. The Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation has pitched in with volunteers to present FireSmart education.
The first three or four years of the program the focus was on clearing out fuel (I.e. dead and down trees) from areas on public land in and around the community. Last year and this year, the focus shifted to people doing similar work on their own properties. In each case, activities have wrapped up with a free barbecue.
The visit of the film crew was a separate event this year. It kicked off on Sept. 9 with Marten Beach Cottagers’ Society President Randy Elm doing a land acknowledgement ceremony.