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

The last day before legalization: what local dispensaries are doing

Some local dispensaries are shutting down, while others are planning big celebrations

Thieves target Sooke school’s emergency supplies

Journey middle school victims for a second time

Advanced voting numbers top 4,000 in Saanich, Victoria

Voters in both communities have one more chance to cast an early ballot Oct. 17

HarbourCats Foundation hosts inaugural Halloween Costume Ball Fundaraiser

The Victoria HarbourCats Foundation scares up its inaugural Halloween Monster Mash Costume… Continue reading

Additional data from Point-in-Time survey finds most homeless people are local

Most homeless people are young men between the ages of 18 and 24

VIDEO: 41 years later, author publishes story he wrote at 6 years old

Troy Wilson originally created Captain Otter while in Grade 1

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

New bus route to ‘replace’ Greyhound along Trans-Canada Highway

Rider Express Transportation says they will soon begin a bus service from Winnipeg to Vancouver

Government says imprisoned Canadian terror suspects must face consequences

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale showed little sympathy Tuesday for such individuals who now want to return to Canada

How rules for inmate segregation in Canada will change under Bill C-83

Federal government proposing changes to rules around inmates in federal correctional institutions

Canada Post union issues strike notice; rotating strikes could begin Monday

Union says rotating strikes will begin if agreements aren’t reached with bargaining units

Duncan play faces challenges even before first performance as thieves strike

Thefts hamper Deathtrap days before opening at Mercury Theatre

Carole James avoids questions on B.C.’s payroll tax (with video)

Green MLA Adam Olsen cites huge tax increase for local business

Most Read