The fire mitigation work near 100 Mile House in the Community Forest as seen from Google Maps. (Max Winkelman - 100 Mile Free Press)

South Cariboo more prepared for wildfires, says specialist

Work at South Green Lake, Deka Lake and Community Forest

“We’re more prepared. I think everybody is,” says 100 Mile House land and resource planning specialist Rob Martin referring to the 2017 and 2018 wildfires and noting that after a really wet year sometimes it drops from their consciousness. “I think most people still remember the fire years and so we’re running into a lot of people going ‘hey when are you gonna be doing work around our place?’ Glad to see that. We hate seeing short memories.”

The Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resources was focussed on reconnaissance work for the past year and getting fuel management prescriptions done, he says.

“We also wanted to get working on doing some actual [fuel mitigation] work. So right now, work is ongoing on the south side of Green Lake. It’s ongoing at Deka Lake. The Community Forest had a whole bunch in here,” he says. “Canim Lake has done some. We’ve been starting work on an egress route on Deka Lake and we’re hoping to start one on South Green [Lake]. Due to some logistics things there that one didn’t quite happen yet but it will be ongoing.”

He notes you can see the work done in the Community Forest on Google Earth/Satelite. There’s also been some fuel mitigation in the Big Bar area and by BC Parks, according to Martin.

“We did all the cell towers in the district because we always want to maintain communication in emergencies,” he says. “We looked at all the cell towers on crown land and just made sure that they were clear.”

They ended up having to do work on about a dozen, he says. All of the mitigation projects near communities have been interface fuel mitigation which are first priority, he says.

“Now we’re starting to look at some of the ones that are further out in the forest that are landscape breaks and so we’re working with the companies and BC Timber Sales on those.”

Logging currently underway near Timothy Lake Road in Lac la Hache is not part of fuel mitigation but Martin notes that they are starting to look at some opportunities for fuel mitigation on the north side.

Local fire departments are usually a good way to connect with the community where possible. Otherwise, they have to start looking for Facebook pages or have people contact them when putting up reconnaissance ribbon, he says.

“Which is good. We’re not doing anything until we talk to the communities anyways but we need to look and see what we’ve got there first.”

Mill closures have been a double-edged sword in terms of fire mitigation, says Martin.

“The biggest thing was… We had no buyer for the wood anywhere. So how do we get someone to do work? So we had to be a little creative there. The upside was, all of a sudden, now it made more people available to do the work. So we were able to secure some funding and then we just basically hired people, ‘okay just log it deck the wood. We’ll sell the wood later when there’s a market.’”

That took the risk away from the loggers which was a bit of a shift for some of them, he says.

“We tried to keep it so people who are affected by the mill closures, that provided work for them.”

RELATED: Fire break work in South Cariboo

With Norbord suspending operations, there’s been more appetite for pellet, fibre and other pulp companies to start taking a look at some of the stuff Norbord wouldn’t normally take a look at.

“We’ve seen an uptick in interest that way. So we’re pretty excited about that,” he says about other companies buying the wood. “In some ways, what Norbord would have taken, if it’s a fibre company coming in now, they’ll actually take even more. So it means even less burning that we have to do in the bush which is great. Anytime that we can utilize more of the product from the forest it’s better.”

They’ll know at the end of March what the funding will be, he says.

“I anticipate that we’re gonna be doing more of the actual work in the Interlakes area now around some of those communities.”

There’s a community meeting coming up there next month to let people know what’s going on there, he says.

“There’s about to be some work going on in Lac la Hache, that’ll probably be more handwork, not so much machinery. And then, we’ll be just finishing up the projects we’re working on at South Green and Deka,” as well as some work on Canoe Creek IR lands and some more Parks BC work.

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Tree spacing and a road built inside the Community Forest for fire mitigation. (Google Maps)

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