People travelling in wildfire impacted areas on Crown land in the Cariboo-Chilcotin are urged to use caution, specifically where fireguards were established.
The caution comes from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development as crews continue rehabilitate fireguards created in the region during the 2017 and 2018 wildfires.
In 2017, for the Cariboo Chilcotin regiona alone, there were 4,091 kilometres of guard created during fire suppression efforts and in 2018 an additional 910 kilometres of guard was creation, a spokesperson for the ministry confirmed.
A fireguard, explained the ministry, is a strip of land running along a wildfire’s perimeter typically five to 10 metres wide. Builders clear vegetation and other flammable material to slow a fire’s spread.
They are either constructed manually by ground crews or by using heavy equipment such as bulldozers, excavators or tractors and firefighters use the open areas created by the fireguards to carry out fire suppression operations and help bring wildfires under control.
“These environmentally sensitive areas are not intended for vehicle traffic, including off-road vehicles,” the ministry noted in a press release. “Anyone travelling or participating in recreational activities near fireguards or within burned area should be aware of risks.”
Those risks can include the presence of heavy machinery in use and the fact existing off-road trails may be impassable.
A rehabilitation treatment called pulled-back where soil and wood debris that were removed is being put redistributed along the fireguard may also pose a hazard.
Trees and tree roots severely damaged by wildfires can be unstable and fall down without warning and there me increased water flow that has washed out sections of roads, trails and fireguards.
“Off-road vehicle operations must retain vigilant while riding on Crown land to help prevent wildfires,” the ministry stated. “Spark arrestors are required for all off-road vehicles operating on Crown land.