VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The wildfire season is on track to be one of the worst on record in the province, with crews struggling to stay ahead of flames eating through our forests and threatening hundreds of homes across BC.
But could the government be doing more to protect our communities?
After the “summer of fire” in 2003, the Filmon Firestorm Report made dozens of recommendations for changes to BC’s wildfire strategy.
“Some have become part of provincial policy,” says Associate Professor Lori Daniels with UBC’s Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences. “In some ways we have acted very well, but in other ways we still have a long way to go.”
Daniels says the province has taken progressive steps in how it deals with wildfires, especially in recognizing that fires are an important part of the forest ecosystem, and not all need to be suppressed.
“We have to let some burn in order to maintain the health of the forests and keep them resilient to future fires, climate change and impacts like the mountain pine beetle.”
But she believes the province needs to do much better when it comes to protecting against intense interface fires.
“A really important factor that came out in 2003 was the importance of assessing the fuel build-up in the forests surrounding our rural communities. This is really critical because it is both through past management and natural changes in the forest that those fuels have built up through time. The more fuels there are around our communities, the more at risk they are of a severe fire burning into those towns,” Daniels tells NEWS 1130.
The province has been trying to reduce those fuels though logging or prescribed burns, but it is estimated that only 10 per cent of the woods around at-risk communities have been treated.
“Really we are averaging one per cent a year since the Filmon Report came out. We need to act faster if we are going to make our communities more resilient and our forests more resilient.”
And despite good progress in other areas, Daniels feels BC’s approach to reducing interface fires is ” a little bit naive” in relying on a one-time treatment.
“In some places we have reduced fuels and are monitoring the reduced fire hazard, but the places we have treated since 2004 and 2005 will need another treatment soon. This has to be an ongoing process and there’s really a lot of room for improvement there.”
Premier Christy Clark will be giving an update on the province’s wildfire fighting efforts at 2pm in Pemberton.
News1130’s Anita Bathe will be there providing full coverage.