VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — An ecology professor at UBC says only about a third of communities vulnerable to wildfires have any kind of plan to prevent such devastation.
Lori Daniels says communities need support to put programs in place, but people are often closed down to the idea as some of the mitigation plans involve clearing twigs and small trees that act as fuel, as well as cutting down some bigger trees in dense forests.
“In many places, people are resistant to having trees cut near them,” Daniels says. “You know, they don’t want to see those trees cut, many people view forestry as a negative thing and so they are very concerned about trees being removed in the forest surrounding their communities.”
She says many residents don’t understand the “incredible” value in doing so.
Daniels also notes government funding is needed for community wildfire prevention programs, adding climate change is taking a toll on the environment.
The community of Logan Lake put such prevention measures in place after the disastrous 2003 wildfires that were fuelled by record-high temperatures.
Fire Chief Daniel Leighton says crews clear small trees and twigs from the forest floor, and, despite initial opposition form residents, the plan also involved thinning out dense forest areas.
“But in the beginning, that’s the perception they had, that they were just going to clear-cut it all that way we wouldn’t have a fire problem,” he says. “That is not the intent and that was never the intent to do that. And that is a hard sell to the public when you start cutting trees down.”
Several communities have started wildfire prevention programs but most areas vulnerable to wildfires have no plans in place.
-With files from The Canadian Press