British Columbia. has already gone over its 2015 wildfire budget of $63 million

British Columbia. has already gone over its 2015 wildfire budget of $63 million

Preparing for the next wildfire season already

 New program will help local governments reduce wildfire risks.

The 2015 wildfire season was a busy one for B.C., with over 297,000 hectares burnt across the province.

To help reduce the wildfire risk to communities, the provincial government has announced a top-up of $10 million to B.C.’s strategic wildfire prevention initiative.

In addition, the province is developing the so-called ‘forest enhancement program,’ intended to help local governments and First Nations reduce wildfire risks around their communities, especially in interface areas where urban developments border on forests and grasslands.

Firescaping, also known as landscape fire management planning, will see thinned park-like forests established on Crown land surrounding communities at high risk from wildfire.

The forest enhancement program is also intended to undertake salvage harvesting of dead timber and enhance reforestation efforts and wildlife habitat restoration in stands severely impacted by wildfires and mountain pine beetle.

The program is expected to be operational in 2016-17.

Sheryl Worthing, Chief Administrative Officer for the Village of Burns Lake, said the village still needs to update its community wildfire protection plan (CWPP) before it can apply to the new provincial program. The CWPP update will be complete by spring of 2016.

“Once the CWPP is updated we will have the information we need to apply for this [new program] and be able to begin reducing wildfire risks around our community,” said Worthing.

According to the provincial government, the increased investment in reforestation will restore and enhance wildlife habitat that has been disturbed by the mountain pine beetle infestation and the accompanying large-scale salvage harvesting that occurred.

The program will specifically target areas that were previously thought to be too uneconomic to harvest and reforest. Revenues generated from the sale of harvested timber and residual wood fibre from firescaping fuel management treatments and preparing areas for reforestation will be re-invested into the fund.