The Burns Lake District Chamber Of Commerce plans to write a letter to the provincial government in support of loosening regulations related to Visual Quality Objective areas, many of which have too much fire-prone fuel. (Lakes District News file photo)

Community targets VQO rules amid fire safety concerns

Wildfire season is upon us in northern British Columbia, and some Burns Lake residents are taking action to minimize fire threats as summer approaches.

The Lejac fire near Fraser Lake, which broke out on May 12 showed the need to keep on top of risks so that communities aren’t caught off guard.

RELATED: Fire breaks out near Fraser Lake

Frank Varga, general manager of the Burns Lake Community Forest, has spoken with the Burns Lake & District Chamber of Commerce about relaxing restrictions on Visual Quality Objective (VQO) areas so that risks can be reduced.

Chamber vice president Lianne Olson and executive director Randi Amendt plan to co-write a letter to the provincial government expressing support for loosening those regulations.

The issue with those areas is that they contain a lot of beetle-killed timber and slash which pose wildfire risks, but because of their VQO and Old Growth Management Area (OGMA) statuses, cutting is prohibited.

Of particular concern to many Burns Lake residents is the hill on the south side of Burns Lake. Any fire in that area could spread perilously close to the village.

A sign that positive action could be on the horizon was implied in late April by Brent May, District Manager of the Nadina Forest District with Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD).

In a speech to the Northern Conference for Wildfire Resiliency held in Burns Lake in April, May expressed his willingness to change the regulations to ensure community safety.

“I don’t want a fire to endanger anybody, people, communities [or] buildings,” May said. “For the people who have put in time and effort into building these wildfire protection plans…I’ll remove the constraints to allow it to happen. I’m not going to have an OGMA, VQO, connectivity corridors, any of that stuff interfere with protecting people and communities.”

READ MORE: Wildfire risks spurring major rethink, conference hears

Individual members of the community who want to share their thoughts on VQO or OGMA regulations can write to May at Brent.May@gov.bc.ca and Varga at frank.varga@blcomfor.com.

The letter initiative from Varga and the Chamber of Commerce comes just weeks after the Burns Lake village council agreed to examine the options for removing the large amounts of fuel in the Village Heights area of Burns Lake.

LOOK BACK: Village Heights forest a wildfire risk, says councillor

The council also plans to submit a letter to FLNRORD on June 25 with its thoughts on the Lakes Timber Supply Area Timber Supply Analysis Discussion Paper.

Comments are welcome on the paper until July 5, when the public review period ends.

The final determination on the new annual allowable cut is expected in the fall.


Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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