Planning underway to ease wildfire danger

A $1 million project could reach into 2022

A top official from Protech Forest Resources has laid out a detailed and long-reaching plan to rid a section along Buck Flats Road of trees and other fuels which pose a wildfire hazard to the community.

“It won’t be like running a bulldozer through,” says Brad Layton, a vice president with the company that’s undertaking the planning and supervision of the $1 million project.

To properly clear the area, estimated at 1,300 hectares, Layton said several public agencies and private companies will need to be involved.

In broad terms, Layton said, the goal along a span from the Buck Flats Road to the Morice River is to take out mass wildfire-prone conifer tree species and plant deciduous species such as birch or poplar which are less susceptible to wildfire.

Although it was the District of Houston who successfully applied for the project money from the provincial government’s Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., Protech will handle the contract administration as it can process paperwork requirements and arrange for contracts quicker than can the District, Layton said.

“This is part of a wildfire management plan of the District,” he stressed of the project’s origin.

“If you think of the area and how the winds blow there and if a fire swings around Morice Mountain into the conifers, with the concentrated load of BTUs (British Thermal Units), you’d have embers raining down into town,” Layton said.

The District was given approval by the forest enhancement society in the spring, some months after it had anticipated hearing about its application, and that delayed the project.

“Basically we lost a season,” said Layton of first work plan expectations for this year.

Layton said he needs to involve the provincial wildfire service and needs forest service licence approval in preparation for the project.

One plan is to have Canfor log some of the area but with the current state of the lumber market, that may be pushed back, he added.

And now Layton’s thinking the project timeline will extend into spring 2022.

He’s also thinking the recently announced forest worker aid program in which the province has promised money for projects such as dealing with potential wildfire fuels might help in paying people to work on the project.

“It’s a program that’s directly for forest workers and I want to see if there are ways to add to this project,” Layton continued.

The $1 million came from a financial boost provided by the province to the forest enhancement society and Houston’s application was one of 40 wildfire risk reduction projects to divide $19 million.

Thirty-six of the 40 approved projects are for fuel management projects that will directly reduce wildfire risk within two kilometres of a community.