Partners in Protection (PiP) is multidisciplinary non-profit association, made up of members representing national, provincial and municipal associations, government departments responsible for emergency services, forest and parks management, land use planning and private business and industry.
The history of PiP goes back to 1990 when a task force committee was established to address common concerns on the issue of wildfire in the wildland/urban interface, (a term used to identify areas where wildlands and human development come together and intermix). The initiative came from the Alberta Forest Service (now Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development) and since then, most of the eight departments and associations who participated in the first meeting have remained active in the Association. Original members were; Alberta Forest Service, Alberta Public Safety Services, Canada Parks Service, Canadian Forest Service, Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, Alberta Planners Association and Alberta Fire Chiefs Association. Partners in Protection became an official organization after it was incorporated in Alberta on February 8, 1993 under the Societies Act of The Province of Alberta. Partners in Protection has since grown the FireSmart brand into becoming FireSmart Canada with the program being supported adopted by membership across Canada.
The mandate of Partners in Protection has not changed since its creation, which is; to facilitate interagency cooperation in the promotion of awareness and education aimed at reducing risk of loss of life and property from fire in the wildland/urban interface. The association is committed to raising awareness, providing information and developing forums to address common problems that encourage community-based initiatives to reduce the risk of property losses and enhance safety in the wildland/urban interface. Partners in Protection has been successful in developing and distributing information about wildland fire prevention and methods to lessen the effects of destructive wildland fire to homes, communities and industries in the interface. In 1999, PiP created the FireSmart ® brand and published a comprehensive technical manual titled “FireSmart Protecting your Community from Wildfire”. This manual has been printed in both official languages and has been distributed across Canada and internationally. Fire agencies across Canada, Australia and New Zealand have adopted standards established in the manual to address wildland/urban interface fire issues in their jurisdictions. Partners has also worked with others, such as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD) to develop manuals such as; “FireSmart Guidebook for the Oil & Gas Industry” and Best Practices for Wildfire Prevention for the Oil & Gas Industry” and are currently working with other partners in the development of a “Farm and Acreage FireSmart” publication.
Since its inception in 1990 PiP has evolved from the group of eight to a membership of over 60 organizations across Canada. Representatives from eight provinces and territories are currently members of the association. Four provinces, one territory and the USA are represented on the Board of Directors. A recent partnership with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) will provide excellent opportunities for international cooperation and sharing of resource materials between the two organizations concerning the delivery of wildland/urban interface (WUI) education and wildland fire risk mitigation programs.
In 2008 PiP was invited by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) to develop a proposal for a National FireSmart program. In response, PiP has developed a FireSmart Canada program that would address the goals necessary to protect lives and properties across Canada identified in the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy developed by senior officials of CCFM. A key element in this proposal is the development of a FireSmart Communities Recognition program based on the model developed by Firewise Communities/ USA®. This program has nearly 700 recognized communities in 41 states throughout the United States. The program provides the criteria, training and education necessary for a community to become certified as Firewise.
In the spring of 2012, PIP held the first FireSmart Liaison Train the Trainer and FireSmart Communities Recognition Program workshops in Kamloops, B.C. co-sponsored by Thompson Okanagan Interface Society, B.C. Fire Commissioner’s Office, B.C. Wildland Fire Management Branch and the City of Kamloops. The objective is to provide FireSmart Communities training and information to individuals identified by federal, provincial, local and first nation’s agencies and governments as key contacts for neighbourhoods interested in becoming FireSmart. PIP plans to hold at least three more workshops in Canada during 2012.
PiP has showcased these recent efforts at conferences across Canada and internationally including the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual meeting, ICLR workshops in Toronto, Backyards and Beyond Conference in Denver, Colorado, Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire, Seattle, Washington and the 5th International Wildland Fire conference in South Africa. Other membership outreach includes publishing articles about FireSmart and supporting building code changes to increase life and safety to property owners in the wildland urban interface.
These key elements, along with several other components of the National FireSmart Initiative put forth by PiP, combine to encourage shared responsibility for fire protection and to empower individuals, communities and industry to directly reduce the risk from wildfires in or near populated areas.