BC Wildfire Service image.

BC Wildfire Service image.

Prescribed burns necessary: Mayor McCormick

There were many complaints about smoke this past weekend

This past Saturday, the BC Wildfire Service, with the support of the Rocky Mountain Trench Natural Resources Society, conducted an ecosystem restoration burn near the old Kimberley Airport, just off Hwy 95A.

These burns only go ahead if conditions allow, but unfortunately on Saturday, winds swirled and came in from the east, causing smoke to blow into Kimberley itself.

Many people took to social media to express anger about the smoke ruining an otherwise beautiful day.

Mayor Don McCormick also posted on his FaceBook page that he was disappointed to see so many comments.

It was disappointing to see many of the comments on social media about the controlled burn this past weekend. Yes, it…

Posted by Mayor Don McCormick on Sunday, 18 April 2021

Yes, it was inconvenient, but here’s why the burns are important he said.

“Dr. Bob Gray is a Certified Wildland Fire Ecologist who, in conjunction with the BC Wildfire Service, provides the City of Kimberley with expert advice on wildfire mitigation strategies. This is a complicated area.

Since our evacuation alert in 2018, The City of Kimberley and the Province have been hard at work planning and executing on strategies designed to make the City less vulnerable to unpredictable wildfires. Controlled burns are an important part of that strategy.

In summary, Dr. Gray provides the following:

“There are two main reasons for using prescribed fire: one is to alter future fire behavior, and the other is to affect the ecology of the site where fire is being applied.

Future Fire Behavior

The focus is on fuels – live and dead vegetative material that fuels a fire. We can thin the forest so that crown fires are less probable and we can remove dead woody material from the forest floor so that fires burn with less intensity and severity.

While we can be very efficient at dealing with large fuels like logs and large branches with mechanical or manual means we cannot treat accumulations of fine branches, needles, leaves, dead grass, etc. The only way to remove those fuels is through prescribed fire. And there is a good reason why we need to proactively treat these fuels with fire.

Scientists have determined that the majority of the embers that cause home ignitions and spot fires out ahead of wildfires come from needles, fine twigs, leaves, etc. – all the material we cannot treat with conventional means like mechanical and manual thinning.

Ecology

The health of the terrestrial ecosystems in BC is dependent on a certain frequency and severity of fire; in fire ecology we refer to it as pyrodiversity. In the absence of fire, or fires that occur too frequently or not frequent enough or burn at too high of severity, we see reduced diversity of native species of animals and plants, an increase in non-native species, and negative effects on soils, hydrology and air quality. If we exclude fire for too long fuels accumulate and the subsequent fire burns under higher severity than the ecosystem is adapted to.

Plants that have survived the passage of fires for centuries are killed, animals that depend on those plants avoid the site, soils are no longer productive or are vulnerable to erosion, water quality is impaired and the timing of water quantity disrupted, and air quality is degraded due to the length and volume of exposure to harmful pollutants.

All of these elements are taken into consideration when we plan and execute prescribed burns and the application of fire is intended to mimic the positive role that fire plays in maintaining the health of our communities, and forest and grassland ecosystems.”

There are many factors that determine when a controlled burn is taken. There is a very small window to execute, and by the time the match is lit, one or more of those factors may have changed, or do change as the burn is underway. It is mother nature after all.

Thanks to everyone for your understanding and patience as this very important work is completed by our wildfire professionals.”

A prescribed burn for the Forest Crowne area, scheduled for last week, did not go off as planned because of wind.

READ: Burn planned for old Kimberley Airport area



carolyn.grant@kimberleybulletin.com

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