Preventing wildfire is essential in northern B.C.

It is generally recognized that the removal of the conifers is a major mitigation step in terms of community wildfire


Wildfire is common in most of the world except for the far north and the far south where there are no vegetation.

Conifer trees, those trees that grow seed cones are much more flammable than broad leaf trees and shrubs. It is generally recognized that the removal of the conifers is a major mitigation step in terms of community wildfire.

Sometimes the trees around communities are not commercially valuable but community members treasure them for their aesthetic values. The result is that quite a few communities are threatened not by valuable mature conifers but instead by young immature trees that may have little or no value.

So for these communities, if wildfire mitigation takes place, the removal of conifers and planting of broadleaf trees could be at considerable financial cost. This cost is a very serious impediment to wildfire mitigation. Nevertheless, the cost to mitigate could be turned into an economic benefit with a little massaging of the B.C. Forestry Act and a bit of entrepreneurial innovation.

This can be a problem; the same people who assess risk are the same who pay the bill for mitigation. Therefore it is not unreasonable to suppose that there could be a proclivity to underestimate risk in order to live within a limited budget.

On any given winter day there is no wildfire risk. On a hot dry sunny day, particularly if there has been no precipitation for some time, chances are that the risk will be very high. So risk is an element in motion, it can change quite quickly in intensity. When evaluators who designate wildfire risk as a static value, like low risk or high risk, it can only be for a specific time period. Risk is a component in motion. Temperature, humidity, dew point, last precipitation, and ground moisture among others comprise the influential factors governing risk.

To illustrate, if we say that an aircraft only has a one per cent risk of crashing, that would mean that one hour out of a hundred hours would be potentially fatal. This kind of risk is not acceptable. So if there is a hot dry spell with cumulonimbus activity (thunder storms) for six weeks, it would mean that a community could be at risk for 11 per cent of the time in one year. Is this an acceptable wildfire risk and, if it is not, how do we innovate to reduce the risk?


Frederick Clarke