Independent Forest Practices Board says the province and municipalities needs to do more to get ahead of the wildfire threat
By Tim Ryan, Registered Professional Forester, Forest Practices Board
Sept. 23 to 30, 2017 marks National Forest Week in Canada. Established around 1920 as Forest Fire Prevention Week, the origins were to encourage greater public awareness towards Canada’s forests. At the time, the greatest threat to forests came from forest fires, mainly due to human causes. Since then, National Forest Week, as it was renamed in 1967, has evolved to encompass the many and varied human and environmental aspects of Canada’s forest resources – past, present and future. While much has changed in the last century, one could be forgiven for concluding that once again, the greatest threat comes from forest fires, only now due in large part to climate change.
The 2017 fire season began slowly, with a wet and cooler than normal spring, but took off on about July 7 and remains in full swing. This year dwarfed the historic records for area burned in British Columbia at well over a million hectares, or 12,000 square kilometres, and it’s still going. The effects on people, wildlife and our forest economy will be felt for many years to come. Consider also that 2017 was the driest year ever recorded in many parts of B.C. – by a significant margin, according to Environment Canada. Penticton, Vernon, Kamloops, Kelowna and Cranbrook all had their driest summer since records have been kept. As of early September, Kamloops had only nine millimetres of rain and the average is 93. Kelowna had seven millimetres of rain and usually gets about 110.
In 2010 and again in 2015, the Forest Practices Board reported on the progress made implementing the 2003 Filmon recommendations to reduce the risk of wildfire damage to communities. Our reports, Fuel Management in the Wildland Urban Interface (2010) and Fuel Management in the Wildland Urban Interface – Update (2015), made a number of recommendations and suggestions for how to reduce the risk to property and lives. We would like to be able to say that significant progress has been made and the risks are being adequately addressed, but that’s not the case.
Information on FireSmart can be found at: https://www.firesmartcanada.ca/
Tim Ryan is the chair of B.C.’s Forest Practices Board – the public’s independent watchdog for sound forest practices in British Columbia. Prior to that he worked in the forest industry in a variety of leadership roles across Western Canada and the U.S.