Auditor General says B.C. needs more preparation for major interface fires with billions of dollars of real estate at risk.
Interface fire management could be opportunity for silvicultural contractors
Silvicultural contractors should read Auditor General Wayne Strelioff’s June 28 report on interface fires. Strelioff concludes we are not prepared in British Columbia for major interface fires. Interface fires are defined as wildfires that occur in areas where homes, businesses, cottages or other structures are located.
Two key factors are contributing to the increasing fires risks Strelioff says. One is the population growth in areas where interface fires occur. The other is the build-up of combustible vegetation, a consequence of years of fire suppression activities; sometimes known as the prevention paradox. Although rare, interface fires are extremely expensive.
Effectively managing the fire risk includes provincial and local governments working together and coordinating the roles and responsibilities of the various agencies involved. It could also involve fuel reduction and risk mitigation strategies on the ground including thinning, pruning and stand sanitation around communities. In some instances it could mean just clearing pine needles out of eaves and moving firewood piles from house walls.
In the U.S. silvicultural entrepreneurs are setting up consulting businesses to address this need. Although, after the fires last year, it may seem a little like barring the gate after the horse has bolted, the message is obvious. Interface fires are a huge and growing risk. To give an example the City of Nelson and the contiguous built-up area along the Kootenay River and Kootenay Lake West Arm have a total of $1.4 billion in assessed real estate value. About a $1 billion of that is prime high risk interface fire property.
With those kinds of values at stake across the province it seems there is an incentive for communities, insurance companies, the provincial government, and entrepreneurs to pay attention. This is what the Auditor General is suggesting.
Copies of the report at http://bcauditor.com or phone 250-387-6803