The District of 100 Mile House purchased private land behind Centennial Park and Evergreen Cres. and is clearcutting the area to create a fire break.
The district purchased the property approximately a year and a half ago in response to the concern over wildfires that have occurred in the broader area, according to Ken Freed, a forestry consultant hired by the district to co-ordinate the logging and owner of Kentree Ent. LTD.
“They decided that they’d do a fuel mitigation project which involved basically cutting a whole pile of trees down to open it up.”
Freed has also communicated with the BC Wildfire Service to get their input, he says.
“We started moving machines in on the 27th of December and commenced the cutting trees down and utilizing them and at the same time opening the property up to make a large fireguard type of scenario directly adjacent to town and the infrastructure.” Logging itself began on Tuesday, according to the District.
From the corner of the property, it’s approximately 150 to 160 metres to the hospital, according to Freed.
“That is why the district was keen on taking every opportunity to open the area up to allow time if something were to approach from the east and the southeast in the fire situation.”
A fire situation such as the Houseman Wildfire, which occurred last year, could pose a threat, says Freed, adding that even though it was more than 10 km from 100 Mile, it was still very close to town in dry conditions. The area also contains the main power line (60 KV as well as the distribution) and the line that goes up to the cell towers, which are critical in emergencies, says Freed.
According to the District, the plans were developed over the past several months.
“The logging integrates with fuel mitigation harvesting planned on Crown Land in the Community Forest, which would tie in a fuel break from the Catholic Church on Horse Lake Road, along the ridge, to the cell towers at the top of the old ski hill.”
The property is 178 acres and they’re logging approximately 120 of it.
The property borders a large amount of Centennial Park. The park doesn’t actually go quite as far as a lot of people tend to think, says Freed, adding that a good chunk of it is part of the private property the district purchased. They will leave part of the area directly adjacent to the park untouched, he says, but notes that the district is looking at finding funding to clear it of ladder fuels.
The area they are cutting is a major clearcut and that is done deliberately with town so close by, according to Freed.
Reducing fire hazard
Though cleanup has already begun, the property has had major accumulations of fuel on the ground through dead pine and dead spruce.
“Where it piles up on the ground is called ladder fuels and it’s an opportunity if a fire comes through, it would burn very hot very quickly and be difficult to control.”
The ladder fuel is due to a multitude of factors, including snow and ice press, according to Freed.
“One of the previous owners of the property did not remove a lot of the pine that was killed in the mountain pine beetle 12-15 years ago and there was a lot of accumulation of debris built up.”
As he’s walking through, Freed points out some of the beetle-killed trees they’ve already fallen as well as those still standing.
“Spruce, particularly young spruce like this with the [branches] all to the ground, in dry conditions in a fire season, if the fire comes through here that tree lights like a candle almost immediately. And, when it burns, it burns very hot very quickly making a lot of embers, a lot of sparks.”
Some people have asked why they don’t just take the dead stuff out, he says, but they have to take out trees to get to the dead stuff and they don’t want to leave a lot of spruce because “it’s like the worst tree for hazard in wildfire conditions.”
The fir with the thick bark, high branches and different needles doesn’t burn quite as easily and Freed says they’ll be leaving some of those.
An unpleasant surprise
For some residents, the appearance of the logging equipment was an unpleasant surprise.
“As soon as we started putting the machine in there to clean all that stuff up people were getting concerned and stuff like that because they could see it and I can understand that because it’s a change. And it’s changed because the trees are disappearing but it’s important to realize why it’s being done.”
One of those residents is Danielle Meade.
“We went away for a week on vacation, came back this morning and I literally saw a buncher almost in the creek.”
“A few residents along there were pretty shocked about what the district has done there… Not at all by the idea of the fire guard but by the manner in which it’s kind of implemented.”
Meade was aware that they would be putting in a wide fire guard but what they’ve done is clearcut right up to Bridge Creek, she says.
Freed, who lives on Evergreen Cres. himself, says they’re trying to balance the need to provide fire protection with the viewscape. Other than from Emerald Cres., the top of the opening will be visible if you’re coming down the hill from the 103.
“The intention is to blend the logging as much as possible with the viewscape. At the same time addressing any fuel issue that might be here. In this part here that’s never been logged before,” says Freed adding that the fuel types are very similar.
A second concern for some has been the proximity to Bridge Creek.
Meade works in forestry and points out that the closest you can be to a creek is 50 metres.
“They were definitely within the riparian zone of that creek. Now, it’s private land that they’re logging on so in theory, they can do whatever they want. However, … it’s just absolutely mind-boggling to me that the city would have this lot that they own that they’re trying to steward and that they would do that.”
Her concerns are both for sedimentation running down but also because there are houses on that road that all look onto that creek.
Bridge Creek is an S2 fish stream, according to Freed.
“Being private land, even though it is private land, I tried to follow the government standards of the Forest and Range Practices Act.
“An S2 stream requires a 30-metre reserve zone, like no logging, and a 20-metre management zone. From where I have my boundaries down, I’m not in the riparian reserve zone.”
Meade says her biggest concerns are the creek and the park as well as the lack of communication from the district, though noted a slight bit of optimism.
“I’m sure they’re going to leave buffers. I’m sure they’re not going to destroy like all the value in the park.”
The District says that in consultation with staff and with the Registered Professional Forester contracted by the municipality to supervise all the logging activity, council has considered the resident’s concerns, and reviewed the processes that were undertaken to plan for, initiate and undertake the fuel treatment on District property. Council is confident that protecting the community from potential wildfire threats is the right thing to do, and the fuel management activity underway will achieve the objective of reducing wildfire threat for 100 Mile House.
“Public consultation regarding this project was undertaken last fall, which was focused on property owners immediately adjacent to where the logging activities or hauling would take place. In retrospect, additional consultation with residents along Evergreen Crescent, whose view-scape would be most affected, should also have been done.”
However, council is steadfast in it’s resolve to protect the community against potential wildfire threats by continuing the planned harvesting and fuel mitigation on the property, according to the district.
“The public is reminded that the area is an active logging site and should stay out of the area until harvesting operations have been completed.”
The intent is for the area to be primarily grass, says Freed. There are also pockets of Aspen on the property which should come back really thick, according to Freed.
“Fire doesn’t burn very well in it or through it.”
In places where the 2017 fires went through there are still patches of aspen that survived, provided the patches were big enough, because it doesn’t burn well, says Freed.
Anyone with questions can contact him at 250-395-8813.