Wildfire season may be behind us for another year, but for Chris Betuzzi, the work to mitigate fire risks in 108 Mile Ranch is an ongoing effort.
The longtime Cariboo resident and 108 Greenbelt commissioner has been instrumental in coordinating fuel-mitigation work in the area, primarily over the past four years.
In recent days, Betuzzi has been cleaning up a parcel of waterfront greenbelt on the north side of the lake, burning debris, thinning out deadfall and raking up other potential fuels before the first blanket of snow arrives.
“The main objective with what we’re doing here is reducing the fire hazard,” Betuzzi says of the work the commission volunteers – as well as contractors – have undertaken throughout the 1,500-acre greenbelt.
“We’re about 90 per cent complete, we have been very fortunate to get a number of grants and funding sources and have really picked it up in the past four years. Most of this has been done under contract but we like to do some of it ourselves.”
Betuzzi has been on the greenbelt commission officially since 2017, but has helped out with the work for about 10 years prior.
It’s a natural fit for the semi-retired forestry worker who spent 41 years with the Ministry of Forests BC Wildfire before retiring in January 2020. Not long after he was scooped up by Emergency Management BC and now works six months of the year providing support and coordination efforts during wildfire season and other emergencies.
“I like to be outdoors, and to be able to give back to the community,” Betuzzi said of his volunteer efforts with the greenbelt commission. “The community has been great to me over the years.”
Betuzzi’s contributions to the community were recently recognized by the 108 Mile Ranch Community Association, when he was honoured with an Outstanding Service Award at the group’s Oct. 6 Annual General Meeting.
“It’s humbling,” Betuzzi said of the honour. “I was not expecting it, but it was a really nice gesture.”
In addition to the large-scale fuel mitigation work in the 108 over the past few years, Betuzzi and other greenbelt volunteers are in charge of maintaining the three beaches at 108 Mile Lake, building and repairing fencing in Walker Valley and coordinating horse and cattle pastures in the grasslands throughout the summer and fall months.
An exciting addition, Betuzzi noted, is a viewing platform on the lake at the Heritage Site that was recently installed.
“We’re going to be putting up some high-grade signs that show the different bird life that people could expect to see on the lake,” he explained. “The pictures that will be used were generally taken from that site, so that’s kind of a cool thing.”
The signs should hopefully all be up at the platform by next spring at the latest, he noted.
As a function of his role with the greenbelt commission, Betuzzi encourages residents to “fire safe” their properties before winter by cleaning up deadfall, thinning out vegetation, raking up fallen needles and leaves and cleaning out gutters.
And if you’re in the market for a new roof, Betuzzi recommends using metal or fibreglass shingles.
“Most structure fires don’t start directly from the wildfire, they start from the shower of sparks coming from the wildfire that lands on the roof or gutters and starts the house on fire that way,” he noted.
Betuzzi also reminds residents in the 108 that, although the greenbelt is public land, trees cannot be cut without permission and if your property backs onto the greenbelt, it should be left to its natural state.
“Some people think that mowing it is a good idea, but we try to discourage that,” he said. “We try to manage the land as naturally as possible.”