Six regional wildland fire centres operated by the B.C. Forest Service’s Wildfire Management Branch are reportedly gearing up for the possibility of a busy, destructive fire season ahead. With summer set to arrive tomorrow, forecasters are warning of an unusually hot and dry couple of months across the province.
Located near the geographical centre of B.C., Vanderhoof is aptly referred to as “the heart of it all“. On August 18, 2010, Vanderhoof experienced what experts in the field consider to be the hottest fire ever seen in North America. In one night, the fire travelled 17 kilometres, wiping out 40,000 hectares of working forest. Less than two years later, a presentation by Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen was the highlight of the 2013 COFI Convention. Looking out at everyone in attendance, he memorably asked: “The fires are coming – what will the response be?”
When I re-connected with Thiessen earlier this morning, he was concerned that the water basin in Vanderhoof is only 14% of normal for this time of year. But he was also upbeat about proactive measures concerning fire control. According to Thiessen, Vanderhoof, The Kootenays, and an area on Vancouver Island are the focus regions of a “landscape level planning” pilot project initiated by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations. As Thiessen explains, back in 2010 patches of unharvested forest contributed to the spread and intensity. The severity of that fire scorched every little seedling in its path. To help contain the spread of future fires, he says strips of forest are presently being harvested. “We’ll never stop the fire from spreading altogether, but this project will stop the intensity. It’s exciting for us as a community.”
Thiessen noted that seven fires like the one back in 2010 would wipe out enough sustainable harvest to shut down Canfor’s Plateau Sawmill for 100 years. “That’s why I’m so passionate about how we harvest on the land base. We need more than just facilitators of the resource – we need stewards,” said Thiessen.