BC Communities Remain Vulnerable to Wildfire

Not enough of BC’s priority wildland urban interface areas have been treated to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire in the decade since the devastating 2003 wildfire season, according to a Forest Practices Board report released last week.  

In a follow-up to the Board’s 2010 report, Fuel Management in Wildland Urban Interface – Update (2015) restates its recommendations to better manage interface areas and to reduce the hazard of new development in the interface through FireSmart principles and the use of development permit areas.

The 2003 season saw devastating wildfires around Cranbrook, Barriere and Kelowna, where 239 homes were destroyed. The Board warns such fires will happen again and can be expected more frequently. Responsibility for planning and enacting prevention strategies, such as treating forest fuel loads, is shared between local communities and the provincial government, through the Wildfire Management Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

The report acknowledges good work done under the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative, but points out that only 10 per cent of hazardous forest fuels have been treated to date. It raises concerns about inadequate funding, as well as the slow pace and costs of fuel treatments.

Calling for a broad consultation with practitioners, local governments, First Nations, and other agencies, the report suggests several opportunities for improvement. These include finding sustainable and adequate program funding, more cost effective fuel treatments, a redefined role for local governments, and compelling at-risk private landowners to participate in the FireSmart program.

The report is available on the Forest Practices Board website.

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