Are there lessons for British Columbia in the recent catastrophic interface fires in North America and Australia?
Last year Melbourne; Now Denver. Urban Interface wildfires— Are we seeing a trend here?
It’s been a year since B.C.’s Auditor General issued the warning that the province’s various levels of government are not well prepared to manage interface fire risks. Events outside the province suggest that ignoring this growing problem is perilous. Last year Melbourne Australia suffered a protracted assault by wildfires and this year latest reports say tens of thousands of residents are at risk around Denver, Colorado. The question is, how long is it before B.C.’s forests turn on communities and what can be done on the landscape to prevent it?
Government has yet to outline a clear response to the Auditor General’s report and the proposed results based forest practices code is generally silent on recognizing the role of fire in forest management other than in the context of prevention and suppression.
Some of these issues were raised this year at the WSCA annual conference by fire scientists Bruce Blackwell and Bob Gray. Some of their eco-system restoration and harvesting work done based on fire regimes will be part of the upcoming Coastal Silvicultural Committee workshop planned for Whistler this month June 18-20.
Environmental restoration work to mitigate wildfire could represent a growth industry for forestry contractors if government was properly motivated. Melbourne and Denver offer graphic examples of the threat we could face if little is done to reduce forest fuel loading and residential flammability across the province.
For more information on the CSC workshop: http://www.mala.bc.ca/www/ForestEx?CSCS2002.HTM More on US fires: http://www.wfca.ca/News/MediaArticles/2002/06/2002-06-11.InterfaceFiresAre.shtml