Journalist Ed Struzik will be in Campbell River on March 25 to talk about wildfire trends.

Are Vancouver Islanders ready for the 2018 wildfire season?

Foresters concerned residents don’t take the threat seriously enough

  • Mar. 16, 2018 10:30 a.m.

Are Vancouver Island residents taking the threat of wildfires seriously enough, in the face of seemingly ever-more destructive wildfire seasons in the province?

Fire season in British Columbia officially starts on April 1 and there are calls for a radically-different approach to managing wildfires.

“It’s a topic that far too few of us take seriously, but each year, it seems, our fire seasons here in B.C. are more dramatic and more destructive,” says Steve Lackey, a member of the Campbell River Forestry Task Force.

Journalist Ed Struzik, author of Firestorm: How Wildfires Shape our Future, will be in Campbell River later this month, revisiting scorched earth across the continent and introducing scientists, firefighters and resource managers who make the case for a radically different approach to managing wildfires.

“Ed has been watching climate trends in the world’s headlines, and what he sees has him very concerned about how our lives will be affected by wildfires,” Lackey says. “Warmer temperatures, increased winds and decreased rainfalls in spring and summer are all risk factors for the kinds of wildfires like we saw in 2017 in B.C.’s Interior and these conditions are becoming more and more common.”

Related: Reporters reflect on the 2017 wildfire season

“Wildfires help maintain healthy ecosystems in the forests of the northern United States and Canada, but for more than a hundred years we have practiced fire suppression to prevent the destruction of forest resources on which forest industries depend,” says Jason Hutchinson, also a member of Campbell River’s Forestry Task Force.

By the 1960s, forest managers started to understand that fire played an important ecological role, and in some cases they began allowing for fires to burn – usually in a controlled setting.

“As human populations have grown, and insect infestations and diseases destabilized forest ecosystems and created more fuel, we are seeing more large uncontrollable burns that are threatening people’s homes and livelihoods,” says Struzik. “Despite our improved understanding of fires, we are finding ourselves unable to adequately manage wildfire risks.”

He explains, “if the past tells us anything about the future, some place on Vancouver Island will burn big as it did in 1938, when the Bloedel Fire shrouded two-thirds of the Island in thick smoke. The difference between the past and the future, however, points to something more dramatic happening.”

With hotter, drier weather over the last decade, more lightning, more diseased trees and dry forest fuel and more people living, working and using the forest for recreation – and people causing more wildland fires than lightning strikes do – Struzik continues, “it all adds up to fires burning bigger, faster and more often, even on the soggy west coast.”

Hutchinson, who is a registered professional forester, recommends people take steps to reduce the threat and be prepared in the event of a wildfire. Families can take proactive measures with a disaster response kit ready and a family emergency plan in place

“Have a family meeting to discuss the fire protection and prevention around your home, family cabin or your time in the forest this season,” Hutchinson suggests. “Ensure that you are prepared and knowledgeable about how to both prevent forest fires, and how to be prepared to react should you be confronted with such a disaster.”

Homeowners can take steps to reduce fire risk with fireproof roof material, removing flammable shrubs and firewood piles immediately adjacent to the home, reducing the amount of fuel on the forest floor in urban-interface forests, and removing dead trees around urban areas.

“But when these large fires hit, even the most diligent homeowner won’t be able to avoid their destructive force,” Hutchinson adds. “Neighbourhoods and cities need to take steps to reduce their risks, and these kinds of initiatives take time, money and expertise.”

Government of Canada information on wildfire emergency preparedness is available at https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/hzd/wldfrs-en.aspx

 

Just Posted

Esquimalt man arrested for child pornography

42-year-old man’s residence searched by VicPD units on Dec. 5

Victoria dad laments loss of provincial accessible parking standards

Push for CRD to address regional parking standards

‘Fix Canada First’ posters found at Victoria bus stops

At least five posters found along Douglas Street

Residential break-ins up while drug production down in West Shore: report finds

West Shore RCMP presented a quarterly report to Colwood Council this week

Victoria Police investigate stabbing in restaurant on Douglas Street

Police were called to the 800-block around 1:30 p.m.

Cannabis gift ideas for this holiday season

Put the green in happy holidays, now that cannabis is legal in Canada

POLL: Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

The rain Vancouver Island is famous for is coming down in buckets,… Continue reading

Lantzville councillors give themselves 45-per cent pay raise

Council pay increase to take effect in 2019

‘People talk about deep sadness:’ Scientists study climate change grief

Some call it environmental grief, some call it solastalgia — a word coined for a feeling of homesickness when home changes around you.

As protectors abandon Trump, investigation draws closer

Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for an array of crimes.

Senate delays start of sittings in new home, delaying start of broadcasts

The Senate and House of Commons are moving into temporary homes for the next decade as a result of long-planned and badly needed renovations to the Centre Block.

UK leader seeks EU lifeline after surviving confidence vote

EU leaders gather for a two-day summit, beginning Thursday, which will center on the Brexit negotiations.

BCHL’ers blanked by Russia at World Junior A Challenge

Canada West loses battle of the unbeaten teams in the preliminary round

French police try to catch attack suspect dead or alive

Local authorities increase death toll to three, including 13 wounded and five in serious condition

Most Read