Wildfire Hazard Regulations

September 13, 2021 Update

The suite of wildfire hazard regulations (the Wildfire Development Permit Area and Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw) were considered for initial readings at the September 7, 2021 Council Meeting. The full staff report on the regulations can be viewed here. The Wildfire Development Permit Area received 1st and 2nd reading.

A Public Hearing is scheduled for October 5th, 2021 at 6:00 PM. More information about participating in the public hearing can be found here.

The Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw received first, second and third reading and will be considered for adoption at a subsequent meeting following the public hearing.

If you have questions or comments on the proposed regulations, please email them to planning@squamish.ca

Wildfire Development Permit Area (DPA)

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.

The current draft Wildfire DPA Bylaw No. 2809 can be viewed here, and the DPA map here.

Staff brought the draft Wildfire DPA for Council review in March 2021. The March 2021 Staff Report, 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 current 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.

An FAQ is provided at the bottom of this page to help answer your questions on the Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw.

Wildfire Public Engagement

Development of the Wildfire DPA and Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw was informed by the following community engagement:

  • Public survey (November 2020)
  • Two virtual open houses (November 12, 2020), view video recordings of the virtual afternoon session and evening session
  • Targeted engagement with local construction, development, landscaping and arborist stakeholders via neighbourhood walk-through and emails. 

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

Show All

Wildfire DPA and Landscaping Management Bylaw 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 private 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 landscaping 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 (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. using fire-resistant siding).
    • 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. 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 best practices 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 proposing a companion Wildfire Landscape Management Bylaw that would apply FireSmart landscaping best practices to existing and new single-family homes along with existing multi-family, commercial and industrial development.  

    Landscaping guidelines include:

    • Avoiding planting flammable trees, shrubs and plants (including cedar, yew and juniper).
    • Ensuring there are no trees or limbs overhanging roofs or growing under the eaves of buildings.
    • Spacing and separating fire-prone shrubs and trees.
    • Removing hazardous woody debris (e.g. slash piles from land clearing). 
  • 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 - Scheduled for September 2021
    10. Anticipated adoption of Wildfire DPA - Anticipated in Winter 2021
  • What is the intent of the Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw?

    The intent of the Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw is to help Squamish residents make smarter, fire-resistant landscaping choices when it comes to planting new trees and shrubs on their property. The goal of this Bylaw is to ensure all Squamish residents are aware of the significant risk associated with having fire-prone vegetation within close proximity to one's home or building. The Bylaw aims to educate the community about these risks and provide guidance to support Squamish residents in managing their landscaping to build resiliency Squamish as a FireSmart community over the next decade.

  • What is the Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw?

    The Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw is a new bylaw designed to complement the Wildfire Development Permit Area (DPA). The Bylaw will regulate both the installation of new landscaping and the maintenance of existing landscaping. It is based on FireSmart BC (https://firesmartbc.ca/) landscaping best practices and expert input.

  • How will the Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw affect me?

    The proposed Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw would apply to both new and existing landscaping anywhere within 10 metres of buildings and structures located within the District of Squamish.

    The Bylaw would prohibit the planting of new three specific fire-prone shrubs, hedges and trees within 10 metres of buildings and structures: juniper, cedar and yew. The Bylaw would also require that fire-prone vegetation be maintained in order to ensure a 1.5 metre separation between the outer trim of the plant and the outer edge of any building structure.

    Additional regulations that would affect existing landscaping include lawn maintenance, and the removal of fire-prone debris after landscaping and clearing activities that generate piles of flammable materials such as tree removal or pruning. 

    Additional regulations that would affect new landscaping include ensuring separation between fire-prone shrubs, fire-prone trees, and buildings.

  • Would I need to remove my existing landscaping under the proposed Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw?

    No, residents would not need to remove existing landscaping under the proposed Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw. Landscaping that exists at the time the Bylaw is adopted can remain in place. However, if existing vegetation grows in size and therefore becomes a bylaw violation, it will need to be maintained in order to achieve compliance. For example, if a tree had an outer trim that was previously located 1.5 metres from a structure but grew so that its branches encroached within 1.5 metres from the structure, those branches would need to be trimmed.

    Key provisions such as ensuring a 1.5 m separation between the outer trim of fire-prone vegetation and the outer edge of any building structure, and removing any fire-prone vegetation that is located under building eaves are critical steps residents should take to protect their homes from wildfires.

     

  • Can I plant a new cedar or yew hedge under the proposed Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw?

    If the plant is located within 10 metres of a building or structure, the answer is no.

    If the plant is not located within 10 metres of a building or structure, the answer is yes.

    Under the proposed Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw, planting new juniper, cedar or yew is not allowed within 10 metres of buildings and structures.

  • What can I plant?

    There are many attractive fire-resistant trees and shrubs that can be planted used within 10 metres of a building or structure.

    The FireSmart Landscaping Guide includes resources and information including a list of FireSmart plants and best practices, how FireSmart landscaping works, plant flammability, leaf types and more.

    If you are interested in planting a privacy hedge, there are many FireSmart options, such as boxwood, that could be planted to achieve this. A number of these options are outlined in our Guide to Wildfire DPA Compliant Hedges.

     

  • Under the new Wildfire Landscaping Management Bylaw, if one or more of the trees in my existing row of cedar hedges die, could I fill in the gaps by replacing them with new cedars?

    If the hedges are located within 10 metres of a building or structure, the answer is no

    If the hedges are not located within 10 metres of a building or structure, the answer is yes. 

    This applies to existing landscaping only. If you are seeking to replace trees within an existing privacy hedge, or if you are considering planting a new privacy hedge, there are many FireSmart options that are available for this specific purpose. A number of these options are outlined in our Wildfire DPA Compliant Hedges Examples.