Today’s Poll

Fire season not over in the West Kootenay

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
September 30th, 2016

It’s cooler and wetter this month but that hasn’t stopped the forest fires from burning in the region.

There are still seven wildfires larger than .01 hectares active in the Southeast Fire Centre that includes Nelson and the North Shore, with the largest the 60-ha Granby River blaze northwest of Syringa Provincial Park.

In addition, smoke from Washington State may be visible this week in many areas of the Southeast Fire Centre, including Nelson and surrounding areas, from a 182-hectare prescribed burn occurring near Kettle Falls, close to Colville in Washington.

“Depending on prevalent winds, smoke can travel large distances. Hazy conditions may be observed in the upper reaches of the atmosphere,” said B.C. Wildfire Service spokesperson Karlie Shaughnessy.

Currently there are no fires of note burning in the Southeast Fire Centre, but BC Wildfire Service personnel will be conducting a prescribed burn for BC Timber Sales this week if the weather is permitting.

Smoke from this prescribed burn will be visible from Highway 31 between Poplar Creek and Trout Lake, said Shaughnessy.

“Trained BC Wildfire Service personnel will carefully monitor the fires at all times,” she said.

The 6.5-hectare controlled burn near Hope Creek (30 km north of Meadow Creek) is part of a fuel reduction prescription to prepare the treatment site for planting.

“The goal of this burn is to reduce the amount of dead and combustible material (fuel load), delay the growth of competitive bush and decrease the risk of catastrophic wildfires,” said Shaughnessy. “This area will be prepared for replanting after the burn project has been completed.”

All prescribed burns must comply with the Environmental Management Act and the open burning smoke control regulation. This helps minimize the amount of smoke generated.

A factsheet about prescribed burns and ecosystem restoration burns is available online.

Other major fires burning in the area include a lightning-caused wildfire burning on Curry Mountain (northeast of Beaverdell) but is now 100 per cent contained and is in the “patrol” stage. A wildfire west of Trout Lake (in the Wilkie Creek area) covers about 20.2 hectares and is being closely monitored. This fire is burning in very steep terrain, so it is unsafe for ground crews to access it directly.

The smoke from a 60-hectare wildfire burning in Granby Provincial Park is also now visible in the region, including Nelson, the Slocan Valley, the Lower Arrow Lake region and Castlegar.

Due to the potential ecological benefits of this fire and its remote location, the B.C. Wildfire Service and B.C. Parks are only monitoring this fire and not actively suppressing it.

“Fire is a natural process and helps maintain a healthy forest and a diversity of plant and animal life,” said Shaughnessy.

Allowing naturally occurring fires to burn in remote areas of Granby Provincial Park is consistent with B.C. Parks’ Fire Management Plan. Updates regarding the recreational use of the park are posted on the B.C. Parks website.

The region bounded by the Southeast Fire Centre — which covers the area extending from the U.S. border in the south to Mica Dam in the north and from the Okanagan Highlands and Monashee Mountains in the west to the B.C.-Alberta border in the east — has been experiencing variable precipitation amounts since June.

Historically, the Southeast Fire Centre — which includes the Selkirk Natural Resource District and the Rocky Mountain Natural Resource District — receives the least amount of precipitation in September, meaning the fire season is still active.

Since April 1, 201 wildfires have burned over 474 hectares in the Southeast Fire Centre.

Of those fires, 62 were caused by people.

So far this year in British Columbia, 1,260 wildfires have burned 312,618 hectares of land, compared to 11,351 hectares in 2013. The 10-year average for this time of year is 93,664 hectares.

Across the province there are 31 wildfires larger than 0.01 hectares still active.

Categories: General

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