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British Columbia needs a longer-term plan to 'fire-smart' our forests: forest ecology expert

Last Updated Jul 9, 2017 at 3:32 pm PDT

The fire near 100 Mile House . (Courtesy Krystal, @HighAltitude101 via Twitter)

Since April 1st the province has seen more than 550 fires

A forest ecology expert says the province needs to look at longer-term, 'fire-smarting' plans for our forests

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A forest ecology expert believes British Columbia needs to look more closely at reducing fuel in the province’s forests, to make it easier to fight wildfires like the ones raging now.

Lori Daniels, an associate professor of forest ecology at UBC, says BC forests dried out when there were record high temperatures in June.

“And then those hot, dry conditions that have persisted throughout the central of southern part of BC since then have led to our forests being primed for fire,” she says.

“Without a change in the weather, without substantive amounts of rain to really saturate the ground and seep down into the soil to make it quite cool and wet again, we will persist at risk of wildfires.”

Daniels says the fires haven’t come as a total surprise.

“Having these hot dry conditions and these very extreme fire weather conditions so early in the summer has been a pattern we’ve seen in recent years. And it seems to be developing throughout large areas of the province. With these early starts to the fire season, it also means they’re often longer and makes us susceptible, particularly as those droughts build in top late July and early August.”

She says in the longer term, with more people living in and enjoying BC’s forests, the province needs to get better at fire-smarting them.

“That probably means cutting down some trees, removing some burnable debris down on the ground, and creating a defensible space. So that in the case of a wildfire coming towards your community, the firefighters have a chance to put it out.”

Since April 1st, the province has seen 555 fires. More than 220 of those are burning now.

Daniels says the fire danger ratings throughout the southern two-thirds of BC are very high to extreme, from the coast right through to the Rocky Mountains.