The District of West Vancouver has developed a set of guidelines that incorporate FireSmart principles into new building design and construction near areas of the community that are at risk of wildfires.
The Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Area was approved by Council on December 14 and includes all properties within 100 metres of a forested area—approximately 50% of land in the District.
The Development Permit Area will make our neighbourhoods safer by reducing the risk of wildfire hazards to new buildings, as well as minimizing the spread of fires into the community. A development permit is now needed before constructing most single- and multiple-family homes and coach houses. Although the District Fire Department recommends these guidelines for all existing homes, a development permit is not required for work on existing homes.
FireSmart principles include increasing the space between structures and nearby trees and brush, and incorporating fire-resistant design features and materials into buildings to help protect the community from wildfires.
In 2019, Council recognized that climate change constitutes an emergency for West Vancouver and directed staff to prepare a climate adaptation strategy. The Community Wildfire Protection Plan was adopted in 2019, providing a framework that can be used to review and assess areas of moderate and high-risk to fire hazards, and outlining how to respond in an emergency. The plan also included the recommendation to establish a Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Area.
Many homes in West Vancouver are located next to forested green space, creating significant risk of urban wildfires. Climate change has caused this threat to increase in B.C., nearby in Alberta and Washington State, and in many other areas in North America. Recently, Kelowna, Williams Lake, and Fort McMurray had significant wildfires and, in West Vancouver, wildfires occurred at Whyte Lake and in Lions Bay in 2018.
To protect development from the risks of wildfire hazard by taking appropriate precautionary measures, informed by professional studies and assessments to guide safe development, forest management, building design, construction and long-term maintenance and monitoring. The Development Permit Area (DPA) will:
1. Manage development to:
- Minimize risk to people and property from wildfire hazards;
- Minimize the risk of fire to the District’s forests and parks; and
- Promote management activities to reduce wildfire hazards and protect the environment.
2. Assist in proactively managing conditions affecting potential fire behaviour.
3. Reduce the risk of post-fire hazards including landslides, debris flows, and erosion.
4. Conserve the ecological, aesthetic, and recreational assets of the District’s forests and parks for the benefit of present and future generations.
Applying for a Wildfire Hazard Development Permit
If you are doing any of the following work on your property, within the Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Area, you will need a wildfire hazard development permit:
- Development of land with the installation of a new single or multi-family dwelling, duplex, or detached secondary suite, with habitable space, as defined under the District’s Building Bylaw No. 4400, 2004.
- Subdivision of land.
You can view whether your property is within the DPA under the Planning/Wildfire Hazard DPA layer in WestMap.
If other development permits are required for the site, including but not limited to those needed for detached secondary suites (coach houses), sites within the Lower Caulfeild Heritage Conservation Area, for development within 15 m of the top of bank of a watercourse, for sites at risk to coastal flooding, and/or for sites with difficult terrain, the applicant’s Wildfire Qualified Professional (QP) should be involved at the early stages of the project to determine siting of buildings and structures which minimize the need for tree removals due to wildfire hazard. For sites with development permit guidelines which restrict the removal of trees or other vegetation, the QP may need to consider and recommend alternative mitigation measures which allow the development to meet both Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Guidelines and the objectives of other development permit guidelines which aim to retain existing healthy trees and vegetation on a site.
A wildfire hazard development permit needs to be approved prior to applying for a building permit.
Your application for a wildfire hazard development permit should include the following:
- Completed Natural Environment Development Application Form
- Wildfire Hazard Assessment Report developed by a Qualified Professional
- Arborist Report (if applicable) – for work proposed on Protected Trees as defined in the District’s Tree Bylaw Section 4.3
- Site Survey – a plan drawn to scale and prepared by a BC Land Surveyor
- Architectural Drawings – must show exterior building materials and finishes, and adhere to the recommendations outlined in the Wildfire Hazard Assessment Report
- Landscaping Plan – must adhere to the recommendations outlined in the Wildfire Hazard Assessment Report
Applicants must submit all necessary documentation as outlined above. Plans and documents must be in PDF format and submitted to:
All fees can be paid online. Directions for online payment will be provided to the applicant following application submission.
Note: It is important that Architectural Drawings and Landscaping Plans submitted as part of the Wildfire Hazard Development Permit application adhere to the recommendations outlined in the Wildfire Hazard Assessment Report developed for your property.
Wildfire Hazard Development Permits can typically be processed in 4-6 weeks, however, process time varies depending on whether or not there are any other Development Permits required, the completeness and accuracy of the reports, information received, and the overall complexity of the project.