Expect smoky skies this fall

Crews burning slash from fireguard project southwest of town

slash burning

Residents can expect smoky skies through the fall southwest of Houston as crews burn what’s left from an extensive effort to create a guard protecting the community from the possibility of a wildfire.

And those with breathing problems or conditions that might be inflamed by the fires are being advised to call 8-1-1 for health advice if experiencing difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, sudden onset of a cough or irritation of airways, indicates a Sept. 13 District of Houston release.

“The District apologizes for any negative impacts this situation may cause and thanks residents for their patience and understanding while this important initiative is completed,” the release adds.

The area in question is approximately 7.5 kilometres along the Morice River Road and Peacock Forest Service Road.

Clearing a fireguard, also called a fuel break, and planting a mixture of species designed to impair the actions of a wildfire that might break out are being financed by a $1 million grant from the provincial government’s Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. Telkwa-based Protech Forest Resources is the District’s project manager and the B.C. Wildfire Service is providing advice and guidance on burning.

Additionally, selling what was logged to clear the fireguard area has resulted in a revenue stream to the District.

Two local sawmills purchased wood as did the Houston pellet plant, a fence post manufacturer, a commercial firewood processor, a pulp mill in Prince George and the public was welcome to salvage firewood.

“However, there is still material which is unsuitable for use in manufactured forest products consisting of tree tops, branches, stems and rotted deciduous stands,” the District released added.

“The prescribed fire will remove the remaining woody debris that, if left on the ground, would continue to provide fuel for a potential fire.”

Work started in the area last year after several years of planning resulted in the significant forest enhancement society grant.

A primary concern rested with winds that often blow in through the area and which could then push any fire that does break out toward the community.

As of late spring, District of Houston estimates placed the fund from the sale of merchantable wood at just under $370,000, monies which the District can use on other forestry-related projects.

That figure could change as expenses are deducted from revenues earned through the sale of fibre.

Project managers are also preparing plans for re-planting of the area with a mixture of species to boost wildfire protection.

Briefing notes presented to council show planners wish to plant tree stands described as fire-resistant by combining coniferous and deciduous species to impair the ability of a fire to leap from tree top to tree top and reduce the amount of fuel on the forest floor.

Pine will be the coniferous species while birch will be the deciduous one.

Once a contractor is chosen, next spring is the target period for planting to begin.