Kimberley council discusses fire management

Where are the biggest risk areas in Kimberley? Is enough being spent on fire management?

The Kimberley Nature Park is over 800 hectares.

The Kimberley Nature Park is over 800 hectares.

With the happenings in Fort McMurray much on people’s minds, it was not a surprise that discussion at Kimberley City Council turned to how vulnerable Kimberley is to the same type of disaster.

Coun. Darryl Oakley brought up concerns he has about the Kimberley Nature Park.

“My concern is about Nature Park fuels management,” he said. “We have a total of about 80 hectares that’s been treated for interface fire. But the Nature Park is over 800 hectares. That’s less than ten per cent over four years. My opinion is that’s not enough. I’d like to see more movement from the Nature Park Society on what the implications are of only treating ten per cent.

“The Nature Park fire management plan is still in draft form since 2012. We need to know, what is the highest risk? Every year biomass is accumulating? How much?”

Oakley added that he fully respects what a massive, wonderful asset to Kimberley the Nature Park is.

Coun. Kent Goodwin, who is also on the Nature Park Society, said that 90 per cent of fire interface funding comes from the province, and additionally in the last couple of years, half of the remaining ten per cent funding came from the Columbia Basin Trust.

“The Nature Park is being singled out and it should be,” he said. “It’s a big part of fire management in the City. But it’s led by the City setting priorities. The Nature Park Society supports the work being done, but I think it needs more funding.”

In addition, several councillors added areas of concern within Kimberley. Nigel Kitto said the Lois Creek trails were overgrown, Sandra Roberts noted that even Townsite hill was full of deadfall. Bev Middlebrook said that several Marysville residents had informed her of concerns about the bank above town.

“Everyone’s senses are heightened by what is going on in Alberta,” said Mayor Don McCormick.

“If you look back at the last ten years, Kimberley has done a lot of work,” said Coun. Albert Hoglund.  “We are leading the province but we’ve done it with the limited funds we have. Coun. Oakley is right.

“If a fire comes, it will come up the St. Mary Valley and through the Nature Park.”

Oakley then brought up a controversial point. If funding is limited, and it is, maybe some thought should be given to commercial logging in the Nature Park.

But Council decided not to go that far yet.

“We live in the trees,” McCormick said. “There is an element of risk. Let’s get Bob Grey (the city’s fire consultant) in for an update on the situation.”

Council will invite Grey in to a Committee of the Whole meeting to give them a better understanding of work done, work needed to be done and areas of greatest concern.