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Projects reduce wildfire risk in Kaslo area

With wildfire top of mind this summer in Kaslo thanks to the Briggs Creek fire west of the village, three projects have been completed to help reduce the risk of similar fires in the area.

The work was carried out for the Kaslo and District Community Forest Society with $185,000 from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC.

Manager Jeff Reyden says the first project was a “landscape level” wildfire protection plan that involved meeting with the BC Wildfire Service, local fire department, and private landowners to discuss how they could work together in event of a wildfire. It also resulted in the creation of map showing water sources and access routes.

Secondly, they tackled an area around Schroeder Creek, close to the resort and a home that was nearly lost to fire a decade ago when a tree fell on a power line. Reyden said an over-dense hemlock stand in the area was the result of regenerative growth following logging in the 1970s.

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“They high-graded all the good trees and left all the stagnant trees behind,” he says. “The tall, skinny trees were starting to fall down, creating a huge fire hazard.”

Reyden says they were able to remove the small and dead trees, which were burned on site. They will be replaced with more fire resistant species of Douglas-fir and larch.

Reyden says the landowner has already noticed “quite a bit of increased wildlife activity. Humans and wildlife had a hard time moving through the stand before, but now that it’s opened up, it creates feeding opportunities.”

The final project was just north of Kaslo, where hand crews cleaned up the fuel load on the ground. They also removed dead trees that had fallen across the trail and been bucked up by users, but not removed.

Reyden says they picked areas that were identified by a wildfire protection plan or by a BC Wildfire Service analysis as having as posing a high or extreme risk to communities. But they also had to be able to get hand-crews or equipment in. He notes that many areas around Kaslo are very steep.

Although the work was unrelated to the Briggs Creek fire, Reyden called it an “eye-opener.”

“We heard there was a fire up Keen Creek and by late that evening it had moved six kilometers toward Kaslo,” he says. “[It was] quite the shocker for everyone in town. We could see flames up over the mountaintop. It had people worried about their homes.”

Reyden says it was a good lesson about how difficult it is to fight fires in inaccessible areas. BC Wildfire would not take action against the fire from the air until it crept further down the mountain to some roads, so they could back up the aircraft with ground crews.

“So it has us thinking about other areas around Kaslo that don’t have roads and what we could do to protect Kaslo in an event like this,” he says.

They have secured funding for three more projects as well. The $229,000 will go toward fuel treatments to fireproof a stand close to Kaslo, for a manual thinning and pruning treatment in a well-used recreation area near the village, and for planning around an area that has been identified as a fuel break.

The forest at Schroeder Creek, post-treatment. (Photo by Kaslo and District Community Forest Society)
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