Aftermath of forest fire (Photo contributed)

Aftermath of forest fire (Photo contributed)

Looking for alternatives to open fire burns

Alternatives to open fire burns being sought

Wetzin’kwa Community Forest is exploring opportunities to dispose of harvesting residue (waste wood) using alternatives to open burning.

“It is the goal of the Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) and community partners to reduce the amount of waste wood, open burning, and reduce the fuels that pose a wildfire threat to infrastructure and communities,” according to Patrick Ferguson, FLNRO wildfire prevention officer.

READ MORE: B.C. wildfire crews have battled 111 blazes in the last seven days

In a report to Smithers Council Nov. 8, 2020, FLNRO reported a reduction of waste wood (and the need for burning) by 66 per cent from using Pinnacle Pellet and Seaton Forest Products, in thinning and clearing areas of high risk for wildfires.

Sites on Hudson Bay Mountain, such as Wetzin’kwa Community Forest, have been identified as high risk areas and to alleviate wildfire risks many harvesting operations, current and planned, focus on reducing high hazard fuel types and are important in decreasing overall wildfire risk to the area.

“Currently, an operational treatment will be conducted in partnership with Hudson Bay Mountain, BC Wildfire Service, Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation, and Mountain Resorts Branch,” the Wetzin’kwa website states. “This includes just under 120 hectares of fuel reduction treatment area along the primary access road to the ski village base and north along the access road to the Skyline Triple Chair base.”

The organization plans a phased approach, first focusing on the treatment units along the lower half of the Hudson Bay Mountain Road this fall/winter with the remainder to be completed in 2022.

READ MORE: Planning underway for this year’s forest fire season while under a public health emergency

“We cannot commit to eliminating open burning completely during these operations, as in some circumstances it’s the only viable option, but we are engaging with local operators who may own air curtain burners, biochar creation systems and other alternates to open burning,” said Jay Baker, general manager of Wetzin’kwa Community Forest

Other plans for wildfire mitigation this year will be at what local people call “The Bluff” area (behind CN Rail) and Seymour Ridge Core Habitat region as well as the community forest.

“We are trying to find an acceptable balance of removing potentially dangerous fire materials, and to avoid burning as much as we can,” Baker concluded.

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Open burning (Black Press Media)

Open burning (Black Press Media)

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