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Williams Lake has a new FiresSmart coordinator

Katrina Nikoalia is taking over from Ken Day

Williams Lake has a new FireSmart Coordinator, who may be a familiar face to some.

Kristen Nikolai has worked at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex since the early months of the pandemic and, 11 months ago, started as the city’s new bylaw officer. Nikolai will now take on the role of FireSmart representative from retired forestry worker Ken Day.

Day says that FireSmart is the ultimate defense to improve the sensibilities of homes. He says the FireSmart program doesn’t just need members but leaders ready to educate the community head-on.

“I think having Katrina in the position is a great start that we’ll make good progress with,” said Day.

According to FireSmart B.C., the program was created in the 90s to help understand the behaviour of wildfires when they reach suburban areas and to mitigate further spread. The course is done in part with the B.C. Wildfire Service and the Ministry of Forests to teach community leaders and homeowners how to protect their properties.

Nikolai grew up in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. After moving to Victoria, her husband was offered a job in Williams Lake, which they decided would be ideal.

“We were looking for a change, a little more freedom and a little more space, and so it was a perfect fit.”

With her hands in many jars, Nikolai hopes to find a way to introduce the FireSmart program educationally.

“What’s causing a lot of these homes to burn isn’t so much the flames getting close; it’s the ambient heat. What it is is the ember showers that are hitting people’s garden walls, getting stuck in corner decks, and igniting these massive blazes which tend to spread from house to house,” said Nikolai.

She says her plans for the FireSmart course are about getting the word out about the program.

“I would really like to get the community involved by getting more properties fire-smarted, at least getting those key steps going for people’s properties in the city,” said Nikolai.

She says having your property correctly fire assessed by FireSmart is easy, simple and free.

“Just by making an appointment … I bring the assessment sheet and spend a little time walking around the house going over some key points and giving you a number grade on where you need some ideas for changes.”

Nikolai says switching out house siding for something more ember-resistant or removing overgrown grass around yards are a few steps towards making your property FireSmart.

Nikolai says her favorite part about working for the program is talking to people with a lot of enthusiasm for helping people find ways to make their homes safer.

“People are proud of where they live and like to be a part of planning and protecting that,” she said.

READ MORE: FireSmart expert coming to Williams Lake May 17

READ MORE: RCMP, Stampede president share security plans for 2023 Williams Lake Stampede

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