120 Communities Throughout B.C. Reduce their Risk from Wildfire – Cariboo

CARIBOO REGION, B.C. – many Indigenous communities, municipalities, regional districts, woodlots, and community forests have taken action in the last few years to protect their communities from wildfire. Using funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) these project partners first create a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) or a Community Resiliency Protection Plan (CRPP), which identifies the location of buildings, communications infrastructure, water, power, safe places, and emergency escape routes. Then, based on the amount of woody fuel risk, the CWPP or CRPP prioritizes which treatments should be done first.

“The key goals of the Community Wildfire Resiliency Planning process are varied,” said Gord Pratt, RPF, Operations Manager FESBC. “Goals include increasing communities’ capacity and understanding of wildfire risk, fostering greater collaboration across administrative boundaries, and being more responsive to the needs of different types of communities throughout B.C. in terms of their size, capacity, and the threats they face.”

Wildfire risk mitigation planning and treatments can be quite different depending on where in the province a project is located. 

“Wildfire treatments will often space trees far apart and remove low branches in order to keep a fire on the ground and to reduce the amount of wood in the forest, so it doesn’t burn as hot. This makes it easier to fight the fire,” said Steve Kozuki, RPF, Executive Director of FESBC. “But every community is different, and some communities have chosen to encourage the planting of broad-leaved trees in specific areas because they are often more fire-resistant.”

Since inception, FESBC has provided nearly $57 million to fund 124 wildfire risk reduction projects. These projects have not only reduced wildfire risk to 120 communities and rural sub-divisions but have generated an estimated 483 jobs (full time equivalent jobs created) and 43 of these projects have involved, or have been led by, First Nations.

“We wanted to share with residents in the region some of the wildfire mitigation work FESBC has funded in the area,” said Kozuki. “We’ve enclosed descriptions of 41 projects in the Cariboo region to provide a deeper look at the important work that has been done. Although many of the project leaders are currently working on fighting fires and unfortunately not available for interviews at this time, our team at FESBC is ready to share additional project details or answer questions media or citizens may have.”

In addition, when it comes to wildfire mitigation work, the BC government has a wildfire risk reduction funding program called Community Resiliency Investment Program (CRI) which is a partnership with the First Nations Emergency Services Society, the Union of BC Municipalities, the Ministry of Forests, and others, including FESBC. The CRI Program has been spear-heading the FireSmart initiative to educate homeowners about actions they can take to protect themselves, such as cleaning gutters and removing flammable materials outside of homes and businesses. Other funding programs to reduce wildfire risk are administered by the Columbia Basin Trust and the BC Community Forest Association.

For information or an interview regarding these projects, contact:

Steve Kozuki, Executive Director | skozuki@fesbc.ca | 250.819.2888

Helping A Community Forest Rebuild for the Future

BURNS LAKE, B.C.— Over 10,000 hectares of the Chinook Community Forest (CCF) was lost in the 2018 wildfires and the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) has provided $800,000 toward revitalizing approximately 300 hectares of the hardest hit stands.

“As a shareholder in the Chinook Community Forest, we are grateful to FESBC for the funding to salvage burned fibre from the devastating wildfires of 2018,” said Dolores Funk, Mayor, Burns Lake. “This project benefits our local economy through job creation and allowing the utilization of fibre that is no longer economically viable.”

The fire reduced the value of the remaining fibre significantly and it was unlikely it was ever going to be economically viable to salvage the fibre and regenerate the site with a new forest. FESBC funding allows for the rehabilitation of this area resulting in the quicker regeneration of a healthy forest.

“The Chinook Community Forest, a partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, is committed to good forest stewardship and seeing this forest thriving for future generations,” said Ken Nielsen, General Manager, CCF. “This is a long-term investment by all parties to get to regeneration.”

A high level of utilization means there is a long-term carbon benefit by avoiding the fibre being burned in slash piles. The removal of fuel also results in wildfire risk mitigation as there is less available to burn if there is ever another fire in the area.

“We are happy to support this project and bring some hope and opportunity back to the community after the wildfires,” said Gord Pratt, RPF, Operations Manager, FESBC. “It is important to assist with the heavy lifting due to the economic challenges and bring this area back to a green, healthy forest.”

Nielsen agrees. “We were hit heavily. Through this project, CCF, FESBC and other partners pulled together to rebuild from that devastating loss.”

Jennifer Gunter, Executive Director of the BC Community Forest Association, is pleased to see the collaborative efforts as well.

“Community forest tenures give communities the opportunity to steward the land,” said Gunter. “Among the multiple benefits of this project is the fact that it is making the community forest land base more resilient and reducing the risk of more catastrophic fire in the future. Community forest tenure holders are proving to be important leaders in this work. The tenure is a significant asset that helps to make this possible.”

Community forests are “an integral way to manage forests for the long-term sustainability of our region and projects such as these ensure communities are stronger, healthier and safer.”

Dolores Funk, Mayor, Burns Lake

CCF has salvaged approximately 100 hectares of the burned fibre last year and plans to salvage anther 200 hectares this year. It was bunch skidded to the roadside where it was then recovered and the sawlog was trucked to various secondary fibre users like a local fence post operation and Pinnacle Pellet, depending on the condition and size of the fibre. This approach meant that all the burned fibre removed from the community forest was utilized.

Tree planting is slated to begin in the spring of 2022 with a company associated with one of the local Indigenous communities.

“It’s really important to fund the reforestation of these areas,” said Clint Lambert, Director of Electoral Area E. “The trees originally growing there were not big enough to produce cones yet, which means the area didn’t naturally reforest itself after the fire. We have lost a lot of fibre and therefore jobs, so it’s nice to support local companies and help a community get back on its feet again.”

Project Partner

For information on/or an interview with Chinook Community Forest regarding this project, contact:

Ken Nielsen, General Manager, Chinook Community Forest, 250.692.0630, Ken.Nielsen@chinookcomfor.ca.

For information on/or an interview with FESBC regarding this project, contact:

Gord Pratt, Operations Manager| gpratt@fesbc.ca | 250.319.1119