The Nelson fire department is looking for volunteers to help clean up part of the Great Northern Rail Trail to reduce the risk of a wildfire.
The “FireSmart” technique will see people remove woody material and low hanging branches from coniferous trees along a section of trail on Saturday, April 30.
In an interview with Vista Radio, Nelson Fire and Rescue Services Chief Len MacCharles says hot embers can be carried by the air current for up to two kilometers from a wildfire before they could possibly drop in and around Nelson, sparking another fire.
They want to prevent those embers from having any fuel.
“In most cases, wildfire travels along the ground and then climbs the trees and so…by reducing the amount of fuel that’s on the ground and making it so it can’t climb those trees by its low hanging branches, we can really reduce the likelihood that a wildfire will spread,” MacCharles said.
So why clean up the Great Northern Rail Trail?
MacCharles says the trail, which skirts the southern and eastern parts of city, acts as a natural firebreak.
“A very effective one. It provides access for fire crews to get into places they might not otherwise be able to get into. By decreasing the likelihood of a wildfire spreading around the trail, maintains the resiliency of that trail to be used for access and to increase its ability as a firebreak,” he said.
While there’s been no local wildfires around the trail, there has been a “few small fires” in recent years, mostly due to people tossing out cigarettes or starting unapproved campfires.
The chief says the “FireSmart” training will also give helpers some valuable tips about wildfire-proofing their home.
“That 1.5 meter (5 feet) space adjacent to your home is perhaps in the single most important thing you can do is get rid of anything that’s combustible next to your home whether it’s piles of lumber, firewood, junipers, cedars, those sort of things, you don’t want next to your home. They will ignite very easily and, if they do, your house is at risk,” the chief explained.
As of Thursday, the fire department already had registrations for the 40 available volunteer slots and the department is very excited about the upcoming cleanup.
Volunteers have to be at least 14 years old and able to carry, drag of throw wood from 10 meters (33 feet) on either side of the trail.
The fire department is also supplying lunch for the registered volunteers and a “Nelson FireSmart Team” t-shirt.
You can pre-register here.
If you’re looking for more information on wildfire-proofing your home, MacCharles also recommends visiting the British Columbia FireSmart website.
The Rail Trail Volunteer FireSmart Day is funded in part by the Columbia Basin Trust, the Regional District of Central Kootenay and the BC Wildfire Service.