A partnership between the BC Forest Protection Branch and the Town of Golden and Area Emergency Management Program (GAEMP) brought unit crews from the Columbia Fire Zone of the Southeast Fire Centre to Selkirk Heights recently. The aim of the project was to continue working on the Wildfire Prevention Program that was launched in the summer of 2012.
Crews were on site from June 17 to 20 and focussed on the removal of dangerous trees and reducing the natural fuel load on the forest floor. The results of the project will help limit the rapid spread of fire in the event of a wildfire and allow faster access for initial attack crews.
“Wildfire mitigation work has a long list of benefits to our community,” said Town of Golden Mayor Christina Benty. “This project will help retain healthy trees and other plant species while reducing forest fuel loads. The end results will provide healthy green park land and ultimately help decrease the rapid spread of wildfire.”
Steve Lemon is a forestry protection assistant out of the Columbia Fire Zone. He said the work being done on the site has been beneficial for both his team and Golden.
“It has been really good. We have been very happy with the level of organization and the amount of projects they have on the table. It is positive for us because it allows us to get some work done and it is a benefit to the town as well,” he said.
Lemon said the area they worked in would have been very dangerous if a fire had broken out.
“There were areas that you could not see through because of thickness. It was rats nest thick with no sight line through the area in places. This was very bad when we got here. From a fire perspective it would have been a very high intensity before because it was so dense,” he said.
Crews limbed out the branches to two metres above the ground.
“The point is to try and keep the fire intensity on the ground. That is the whole objective of the process. If there is a fire in the area it is not fire proof, but it keeps the fire on the ground and out of the canopy. It lessens the intensity. This makes it travel slower and will allow firefighters to get in to the area and work it,” Lemon said.
Jordan Petrovics, manager of recreation services for the Town of Golden, sees the clearing as a way to encourage more use in the area.
“From a parks space, there is a lot of potential in this to utilize the space as well as when we hold events up here,” he said.
“This initiative is part of a multi-year planning and implementation project focusing on protecting our community from wildfire with 90 per cent of the project funding provided by provincial government grants,” said David Love, manager of strategic initiatives for the Town of Golden.
“Employment of BC Forest Service firefighting personnel is a mutually beneficial arrangement between the Town and the Southeast Fire Centre as it helps reduce the cost to the Town of the overall project and maintain the skills of the unit crews when they are not employed fighting wildfires.”
Lemon said he thinks this kind of work can have many different benefits for residents.
“The first one is the fire management. It allows us to get control of fire before it gets into town. The second is from a wildlife perspective. There are homes here and a large bear population. Now that we have opened up the sight lines parents will be able to see their children running around in the forest. They will be able to see any predators in the area as well. This is something people may not know.”
He also said he believes the work being done will help educate people on its importance.
“I think there is a big education and people are getting it now. They are looking at the landscape. The real challenge for us is that we have spent a long time saying fire is bad and now we have to tell people that the investment is needed to protect the communities. We are going to burn what we took out to keep the intensity low.”