Wildfire Development Permit Area (DPA)

Wildfire Development Permit Area

The District is creating a Wildfire Development Permit Area (DPA) for Squamish to help reduce the risk to public safety, property and the District’s forests from wildfire hazards.

Identified as one of the recommendations from the District's Community Wildfire Protection Plan, the Wildfire DPA would apply to properties that are at risk for wildfire. Development occurring within the Wildfire DPA would be required to obtain a Development Permit and meet a set of guidelines focused on fire-resistive building materials and landscaping.

An FAQ is provided at the bottom of this page to help answer your questions on the Wildfire DPA. Engagement for development of the Wildfire DPA consisted of a survey and two virtual open houses held in November 2020. Staff brought the draft Wildfire DPA for Council review in March 2021 and are now in the process of revising the Wildfire DPA based on Council feedback.

The most up to date draft of the Wildfire DPA and DPA map are linked below. Formal Council consideration of the Wildfire DPA is anticipated in Fall 2021; this page will continue to be updated with information on the project throughout 2021.  

March 2021 Staff Report, draft Wildfire DPA Guidelines and Map, survey results and public comments are available here

Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw

Interface wildfire hazard is significantly impacted by landscaping within the 10 meters of buildings, known as the FireSmart Priority 1 Zone. In order to minimize wildfire hazard in this area, the District of Squamish will also consider adoption of a Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw which regulates landscaping within the Priority 1 Zone. This bylaw will include the following elements:

  • Regulations for new landscaping will prohibit three high risk plants: Juniper, Cedar and Yew, and ensure separation between fire-prone shrubs, trees and buildings.
  • Regulations will also mandate maintenance of existing landscaping including pruning trees and shrubs to create separation from buildings, eliminating ladder fuels, maintaining lawns, and removing fire-prone debris.

The draft Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw No. 2834 can be found here.
Supporting information can be found in the FireSmart Landscaping Guide and the Wildfire DPA Compliant Hedges Examples.

Questions on the Wildfire DPA or Landscaping Management Bylaw?
Please contact our Planning Department at planning@squamish.ca

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Wildfire DPA FAQ

  • What is a Wildfire Development Permit Area?

    In general, under Provincial legislation, local governments can use Development Permit Areas to identify locations where special requirements and guidelines for development apply, to protect development from natural hazards. 

    The Wildfire Development Permit Area includes forests and properties that are at risk for wildfire. Development occurring within the Wildfire DPA would need to get a permit and meet a set of guidelines that specify accepted materials and methods to limit the development's vulnerability to wildfires and ember showers.   

  • Why do we need a Wildfire DPA?

    Wildfire risk continues to increase in the District with:

    • Ongoing development (risk of human caused ignitions and more development occurring adjacent to forests);
    • Current and increasing levels of fuel hazard (woody debris accumulating); and,
    • Fire seasons lengthening and more frequent extreme weather events occurring (potential climate change impacts).

    A Wildfire DPA will:

    • Ensure that new development is managed in a way that minimizes the risk to property and people from wildfire hazards, promotes activities to reduce wildfire hazards, and minimizes the risk of fire to the District’s forests;
    • Proactively manage conditions affecting potential fire behaviour to enhance fire suppression and containment and minimize adverse impacts;
    • Conserve the visual and ecological assets of the forest; and,
    • Reduce the risk of post-fire landslides, debris flows and erosion.

     

  • What areas of Squamish are subject to the Wildfire DPA?

    The Wildfire DPA will apply to most lands within the District of Squamish, given the large amount of forested areas and the close proximity of our neighbourhoods to these forests (as well as the strong winds that can spread wildfires and embers). 

    Review the Wildfire DPA Map.

    A Development Permit would be required for all development activity (some exemptions will apply) within the Wildfire DPA. 

  • What are the key elements of the Wildfire DPA?

    The first focus of the DPA guidelines is on building materials, with fire resistant materials used for roofs, cladding/exterior walls, and decks/porches/balconies.

    The second focus is on covering external building openings, including eaves, soffits, and vents. Chimneys should have spark arrestors. 

    The third focus is on landscaping adjacent to the building, with landscaping guidelines based on FireSmart best practices. 

  • What types of development or construction would trigger the Wildfire DP?

    If your property is within the Wildfire DPA and you are planning to do a subdivision that creates more than 2 new lots, a multi-family development, or a commercial or industrial development, then a Wildfire Development Permit would be triggered. Note that some exemptions will apply, particularly for single-family homes (see exemption FAQ section for more on this).   

  • How would the Wildfire DPA affect building design and construction?

    This wildfire DPA has guidelines that apply to multi-family, commercial and industrial development.

    Buildings must generally be constructed using fire-resistant materials and methods. 

    Building construction guidelines include:

    • Roofing materials (e.g. using Class A or B materials). 
    • Exterior cladding (e.g. cement board, metal, brick, etc.).
    • Overhanging projections (e.g. using fire-resistant materials for balconies and decks).
    • Exterior doors and windows (e.g. using non-combustible, or double-paned options).
    • Eaves, soffits, and vents (e.g. using metal materials and covering openings).
    • Chimneys (e.g. using spark arrestors).
  • How would the Wildfire DPA affect landscaping around homes?

    The DPA guidelines for landscaping are based on FireSmart principles about how to create defensible space around homes and structures, to reduce the possibility of fire ignition.

    Landscaping modifications apply to the area within 10 meters of a proposed multi-family, commercial or industrial development. Note that the District is considering a separate Wildfire Landscape Management Bylaw that would apply FireSmart landscaping best practices to existing and new single-family homes.  

    Landscaping guidelines include:

    • Avoiding planting flammable trees, shrubs and plants.
    • Ensuring there are no trees or limbs overhanging roofs or growing under the eaves of buildings.
    • Thinning the tree canopy and understory and pruning lower branches.
    • Spacing the tree canopy.
    • Removing dead and dying trees (an assessment by a qualified professional is required for tree removal).
    • Removing hazardous woody debris (e.g. slash piles from land clearing). 
    • Additional fuel management guidelines apply where wildfire hazard levels are high. 
  • How would the Wildfire DPA affect new subdivisions?

    The Wildfire DPA has guidelines for subdivision development and design, which include specifications for:

    • Road system planning and design to ensure safe access and evacuation routes (e.g. ring roads or placing roads adjacent to forested areas).
    • Fire hydrant locations.
    • Applying development setbacks of 10 meters from natural features that increase wildfire risk (e.g. tops of ridgelines, steep slopes and cliffs).
  • How would the Wildfire DP application process work?

    If your property is included within the Wildfire DPA, discuss your proposed work with District staff early in the process. You will be advised whether the proposed work is exempt from the DPA, or whether a Wildfire Development Permit (DP) is needed.

    If a Wildfire DP is needed, a Land Development Application would be completed and fee paid. A site plan, building materials and landscape plan would be submitted with the application. District staff would review the application for conformance with the DPA guidelines. If the proposed work meets the guidelines, staff would recommend approval of the DP by the Director of Community Planning (who has delegated authority for permit approval and issuance). The permit would also be registered on the title of your property. You would then proceed through the building permit and construction process, following the terms and conditions of the permit. 

    Note that a Development Permit is NOT a Building Permit. A Development Permit must be obtained before a Building Permit or subdivision approval can occur.

    Development Permit processing time varies depending on whether or not there are any other DPs required, the completeness and accuracy of the application information submitted, and the overall complexity of the project. Once all information is received, the processing generally takes 4 – 8 weeks, but is dependent on current staff capacity and whether additional information is required to process the application. 

  • Are there any exemptions from the Wildfire DPA?

    Yes, there are exemptions proposed.

    Generally, existing and new single-family homes will be exempt as long as a new or replacement roof uses fire-resistant (Class A or B) roofing material.  

    A Development Permit will also not be required for the following uses within the Wildfire DPA (note this is a condensed list, refer to the draft DPA for full verbatim list):

    • Subdivisions that create less than 3 new lots.
    • Any development on lands that already have a wildfire restrictive covenant registered on title.

     

     

  • When would the Wildfire DPA come into effect?

    While there is no date set for the Wildfire DPA to come into effect, the project timeline is as follows:

    1. Introduction to staff - occurred October 2019
    2. Development of the draft DPA map - occurred November 2019
    3. Introduction to Council - occurred January 2020
    4. Draft Wildfire DPA - ongoing (latest draft posted on wildfire page)
    5. Developer workshop - November 2020 
    6. Public workshop - November 2020
    7. Survey - November 2020
    8. Report to Council and progress update - March 2021
    9. Submission to Council for formal Bylaw readings - Anticipated in Fall 2021
    10. Anticipated adoption of Wildfire DPA - Anticipated in Winter 2022