A Community Focuses on Forest Health and Wildfire Risk Mitigation

Midway, B.C.: The small rural community of Midway is located on Highway #3 about one hour east of Osoyoos. The town may only have a population of 649 people, but the community hosts thousands of visitors throughout the year who venture into the West Boundary Community Forest (WBCF) to hike, bike or snowshoe the extensive Midway Trails network. As locals, visitors, and school groups are actively out in the community forest, the WBCF Board understood how critical it was to proactively start looking at ways to improve the health of the forest for future generations and to start removing dead and fallen trees that could pose a catastrophic wildfire threat.

“This project has been a community effort,” said Dan Macmaster, Fibre Manager for Vaagen Fibre Canada and Forest Manager of the WBCF. “Our team at Vaagen worked to develop the prescription, and then supervise and implement the work using funding dollars provided by FESBC and the WBCF. This project is on actively used trail systems, so it was important to engage the community to ensure their involvement and buy in, including our First Nations partners, in the planning and implementation phases.”

The Osoyoos Indian Band and their forestry team provided archaeology assessments at the outset and members of the Band have been involved in post-harvest treatments like bucking and piling trees.

“This project work has been a very light touch on the landscape using an innovative harvesting/forwarding system to minimize soil disturbance. Plus, we are doing hand treatments where possible. We’ve even had school groups come in to learn more about their community forest and to do some of the hands-on work.”

Dan Macmaster, Fibre Manager Vaagen Fibre Canada, Forest Manager WBCF

The need for the project started in the summer of 2018 when a strong windstorm came through the southern Boundary region and blew over a vast number of trees. Through daily inspections by the Midway Trail Society volunteers, blowdown from the storm was noted as significant, and an aerial inspection by the WBCF verified the extent of the damage. Because the area is already susceptible to the Douglas-fir beetle, the downed trees needed to be removed to prevent further infestation in the local forest. The Mayors of Midway and Greenwood were very supportive of the project, and a Director of the WBCF Board has been hearing excellent reviews from local residents and community leaders alike.

“We are pleased to see the hard work of so many make an improved difference for our Community Forest and for the Midway Trails,” said Ross Elliot, Director on the Board of the WBCF. “We expressed early on to the Midway Trails Society members and to the residents of Midway and Greenwood who have joint ownership of this Community Forest that there was a lot of work to be done. The $94,200 in FESBC funding, in conjunction with a $139,500 contribution from the WBCF, has allowed us to get the work underway. Moving forward, we will continue to rely on our community volunteers to maintain the trails well into the future for everyone to enjoy.”

Noting the many benefits of the project is FESBC Operations Manager, Gord Pratt.

“Our team likes to see projects that request FESBC-funding cover a number of our purposes and this project is doing just that. Not only are excessive fuel loads being reduced to mitigate increased wildfire risk, but the work is making the forest healthier. This in turn helps create enhanced wildlife habitat, maintain forest recreation opportunities, and ensures timber supply for future generations. When marginal stands can be harvested and brought to the local mill, projects like this also create economic benefits, including jobs for the community.”

To see the project area in relation to the Midway Trails System, refer to the map below or visit the West Boundary Community Forest’s website

For a tour of the area following all Covid-19 safety protocols or an interview:
Dan Macmaster, RPF, Fibre Manager Vaagen Fibre Canada & Forest Manager West Boundary Community Forest
dmacmaster@vaagen.ca | 250.528.0344

For information on/or an interview with FESBC:
Aleece Laird, Communications Liaison, Forest Enhancement Society of BC
communications@fesbc.ca | 250.574.0221

Skid trails to become new hiking trails in Midway

Ember the FireSmart Fox Name chosen after nationwide online contest by FireSmart BC

FireSmart BC welcomed a new member to the team: Ember the FireSmart Fox!

Ember is a fun, fictional fox mascot whose image will become part of FireSmart messages, activities and events. 

The name Ember was determined through an online contest that encouraged Canadians to submit suggestions. The winning entry was submitted by Arlene Steward of Swansea Point, B.C., who was the first of more than 50 Canadians (across every province and territory), and one of more than 500 contest participants, to suggest Ember.

Ember is an effective messenger because of her unique characteristics that include alertness, adaptability, intelligence and community-mindedness. Ember’s primary job is to educate the public about how to apply FireSmart principles to their homes, properties and neighbourhoods to increase wildfire resiliency.

“In an effort to spread awareness about our brand and programs, we’ve worked with FireSmart Canada to develop a fox mascot to help further engage and connect with the public,” says Kelsey Winter, FireSmart BC program lead and chair of the BC FireSmart Committee. “Ember will serve as a key tool to help us communicate to BC residents the importance of adopting FireSmart principles and best practices.”

FireSmart BC is a partner of FireSmart Canada, which leads the development of resources and programs designed to empower the public and increase community resilience to wildfire across Canada. 

To learn more about Ember, get to know some of our contest participants, and read about their FireSmart experiences, visit www.firesmartfox.ca.

About the BC FireSmart Committee:

The BC FireSmart Committee was initiated by the BC Wildfire Service in May 2017 to provide greater direction for wildfire prevention activities and better integration of the seven FireSmart disciplines throughout the province — based on the FireSmart Canada model. 

Members of the committee include the BC Wildfire Service, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the Fire Chiefs’ Association of B.C., Emergency Management BC, the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. and the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of B.C., Indigenous Services Canada, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Regions and Rural Development – Regional Operations, Parks Canada, and B.C. Parks.

Resources:

FireSmart BC website: https://firesmartbc.ca/

FireSmart BC Twitter: https://twitter.com/BCFireSmart 

FireSmart BC Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/firesmartbc 

FireSmart BC Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/firesmartbc/ 

Media Contact: 

About FireSmart Canada:

FireSmart® Canada is the national program committed to helping Canadians reduce their wildfire risk. Through publications, programs, outreach training, and workshops, FireSmart Canada provides tools for Canadians to become proactive in reducing the risk of wildfire to their homes and neighbourhoods. FireSmart programs and products are supported by organizations such as the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, the National Fire Protection Association and The Co-operators. For more information visit www.firesmartcanada.ca.

Meet Ember the FireSmart Fox!

Wildfire Risk Reduction Projects on the Move to Safeguard Okanagan Watersheds

Okanagan, B.C.: Last summer, four water purveyors – or municipal/regional water utility providers – in the Okanagan were awarded grants from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC totaling $678,910. The purpose of the grants was to fund a collaborative approach to wildfire risk reduction in all four major Okanagan watersheds.

The work happening on the ground now will not only safeguard high priority interface areas of the individual watersheds which border one another, but also help protect the broader Okanagan basin’s water quality, important wildlife habitat and infrastructure, and create opportunities to enhance the utilization of woody fibre associated with interface fuel management treatment.

Frontline Operations Group Ltd.’s Principal, John Davies, RPF, is heading up the projects. He’s been working with all four water purveyors together with input from First Nations, local governments, and key stakeholders to lead the development of prescriptions for high-value watershed infrastructure sites and a landscape level wildfire risk management plan to identify high-risk areas and subsequent plans to reduce dangerous wildfire behaviour. He is pleased with the level of engagement from all the water purveyors in the planning and the work now being done for the projects.

“The four water purveyors for the watersheds on the Aberdeen Plateau have collaboratively developed maps illustrating opportunities for landscape level fuel break development extending across the watersheds from Lavington to Joe Rich,” says Davies. “The locations are conceptual and based on in-depth GIS analysis and additional input from BC Wildfire Service (BCWS).”

A fuel break is an area where flammable woody material is removed in order to slow or stop a wildfire.

The four water purveyors involved have all started the hands-on work:

  • District of Lake Country,
  • Regional District of North Okanagan,
  • Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District, and
  • Black Mountain Irrigation District

“All four water purveyors have small-scale operational projects on the go over the fall and winter. Work will occur around residential developments as well as critical infrastructure associated with water intakes, treatment facilities, and communication towers essential to safe operations of the watersheds. Plus, these projects are providing opportunities for local contractors to pick up additional work.”

John Davies, RPF, Frontline Operations Group Ltd.

Here is a status report on each of the projects:

District of Lake Country Project: work has seen the removal of woody debris from approximately 2.5 hectares in an area near the Beaver Lake Lodge and the Vernon Creek intake. The Beaver Lake Reservoir provides essential water services for over 4,000 customers and is a backup for Okanagan Lake water customers. The wood being removed is fallen dead wood which has been provided as firewood for the local community and delivered to Okanagan Indian Band for their elders.

Black Mountain Irrigation District: A treatment to thin and remove trees for the Philpott Road has been prescribed and the Irrigation District is working with Gorman Bros. Lumber to finalize the implementation of the project this winter. Mapping of the area and recommended treatments are complete on four fuel break areas above Schram Creek slope.

Glenmore Ellison Improvement District: The Postill Lake project area will see work begin shortly as site conditions permit. An additional area has also been prescribed for treatment outside of the Postill Lake area and has been sent to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and BCWS for assistance.

Regional District of North Okanagan: The removal of trees and ground debris through hand and machine treatments is underway in an area near the Bluenose Trail in Lavington and behind private residences along Bluenose Road. The work will serve to reduce wildfire risk for homes and key infrastructure for the Greater Vernon Water Utility. Timber harvested by local contractors will go to local mills and any merchantable timber will go to local processing facilities. In addition, traditional Indigenous fire practices will be incorporated in understory cleanup.

Also pleased with the planning and implementation is Dave Conly, RPF, Operations Manager for FESBC.

“When we are assessing projects to fund, not only do they need to align with our purposes, but we appreciate it when they are proactive and collaborative, and these four projects checked all the boxes,” said Conly. “We continue to monitor progress and are engaging in a number of field trips with the contractors and water purveyors. We look forward to completing this first phase of work to reduce fire behaviour and severity.”

All four FESBC-funded projects are expected to be complete by late summer 2021.

“The watersheds provide water to many communities, and tens of thousands of residents, throughout the North and Central Okanagan. To have the water quality and quantity within these watersheds impacted to any degree by a wildfire would cause incredible duress to communities and residents alike.”

John Davies, RPF, Frontline Operations Group Ltd.

For an interview with Frontline Operations Group Ltd.: John Davies, RPF, Wildfire Management Specialist | john@frontlineops.ca| 250.540.3473

For information on/or an interview with FESBC: Aleece Laird, Communications Liaison | communications@fesbc.ca | 250.574.0221

Work Heats Up to Cool Down Wildfire Risk in 100 Mile House

A partnership between the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) and 100 Mile House Development Corporation is reducing the risk of wildfires for people living in and around 100 Mile House.

Manual and machine clearing of forested areas for fuel breaks is focused on neighbourhoods and areas near the community, with the goal of reducing wildfire risk to homes and recreational areas.

“This partnership is supporting the economy by creating opportunities for people from local communities, including the Canim Lake Band, as well as local contractors,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “It’s also benefiting people living in and near 100 Mile House, and all British Columbians, by reducing wildfire risk.”

The project is contributing to an estimated 10 full-time jobs and is providing opportunities for local contract work. It includes machine and hand clearing, as well as prescribed burns.

“People are facing the risks connected to climate change and preparing their communities to respond. Reducing the risk of wildfires is one of the actions communities can take to safeguard public health and safety,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “This project and others like it create opportunity and provide jobs through economic recovery from COVID-19.”

FESBC funding of nearly $1.3 million in 2019 has allowed the corporation to clear close to 240 hectares since the project began last fall.

“The contractor is working with experienced crews from local First Nations communities, and with the slowing of the local forest economy, they also employed laid-off loggers,” said Joanne Doddridge, director of economic development and planning, District of 100 Mile House. “The public has been, overall, supportive. The development corporation is aware of the impact of implementing the treatments so close to residences. We are striving to minimize the impact on these neighbourhoods, while creating fuel breaks to enhance public safety and reduce wildfire risk.”

Much of 2019 was spent doing mechanical harvesting and piling treatments, followed by manual work where crews prune trees, thin out small stems and pile debris. This summer, crews laid out areas for prescribed burns and prepared for mechanical clearing. Manual treatment options may be delayed due to COVID-19 related restrictions.

Activities for this field season will take place north and south of Horse Lake. Work will also include the completion of activities in areas treated last fall east of 100 Mile and properties on the north side of Horse Lake Road and the Ranchette subdivision.

It is hoped that material removed this year to create the fuel breaks can be used as biomass in the form of pulp or ground for pellets, minimizing the amount of material that needs to be burned. All the pulp fibre and a significant portion of the residual fibre removed last year was used.

The project is expected to continue through March 2022.

“This project has been innovative in maximizing the use of mechanical treatments, which reduces overall costs and allows more area to be treated. The success of this project has been due to the collaborative efforts of all the parties involved to achieve a successful outcome.”

Ray Raatz, Operations Manager, Forest Enhancement Society of BC

“Funding from FESBC has been critical in all phases of this project. Assessing, developing prescriptions and treating these fuel treatment blocks to enhance community safety would not be possible without the assistance of FESBC.”

Mitch Campsall, mayor of 100 Mile House

To learn more, visit the BC Government website, here or the FESBC projects pages: www.fesbc.ca/projects