The Burns Lake Community Forest (Comfor) plans to start removing hazardous fuels from selected forest areas on Oct. 15.
Comfor issued tenders for contractors for the project on Oct. 4, according to a press release from the community forest.
The plan will target the area south of Burns Lake, which has had Visual Quality Objective (VQO) status, complicating the possibility of removing fuel since harvesting is prohibited in VQO areas.
But there is now “Visual Quality Exemption for the area south of the town of Burns Lake and cutting permit authorization for that area,” the release said.
Burns Lake Comfor has been discussing fuel removal plans since the spring, and Comfor general manager Frank Varga told Lakes District News in May that he hoped to begin the project soon.
“I feel like we should be able to get in there fairly quickly. I’m on the optimistic side. If everything goes the way I envision, I hope I would have authorization by the beginning of June to move forward [with a treatment plan]. We need to remove as much of the dead pine as possible,” he said.
The planned move on fuel mitigation follows the issuing in May of the Landscape Fire Management Plan (LFMP) to BL Comfor from forestry consultants B.A Blackwell and Associates.
The report assessed the wildfire risks facing Comfor and considered appropriate measures for reducing risks associated with mountain pine beetle, climate change and long-term fire suppression.
It also found that most Comfor land contains too much fuel.
“The Blackwell report identified that 63 per cent of the landscape in the Comfor is composed of hazardous fuel types,” the release said.
The dangers of excessive fuel have been a pressing concern for Burns Lake residents.
Last winter and spring locals expressed their anxieties over the fuel problem in several public consultations held by the Chinook Community Forest.
Meeting participants wanted old growth management areas (OGMAs) and VQOs to be managed more as they contain a lot of fuel, but logging is restricted in those areas.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) has been aware of that dilemma for some time.
Last April at the Northern Conference for Wildfire Resiliency held in Burns Lake, the Nadina District Manager Brent May said he was willing to amend landscape constraints like VQO and OGMA for the purpose of reducing wildfire risks.
“We are committed to seeing this plan implemented over the next few years, with focused efforts to start fall of 2019,” Varga said.
Collaboration with FLNRORD and the NorthWest Fire Center led to the approval of Comfor’s LFMP, he added.