Expect Massive Wildfires in the Wake of Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic

WSCA Conference:Beetle-killed stands across the province will eventually be fuel for fiercely intense wildfires according to fire ecologist Bruce Blackwell.

Citing the 2003 Chilko fire west of Williams Lake Blackwell noted this fire took hold in stands attacked by beetles 20 years ago producing a conflagration that exceeded most scales for measuring fire behaviour. But only a third of that forest had been killed prior to the burn. Today the pest devastation is occurring at a greater intensity suggesting even larger fires capable of spotting farther and spreading faster. Beetle-killed stands become more volatile as the dead trees fall out, usually after the first decade, building up fuel on the forest floor under the emerging canopy of new trees. Strategies such as landscape fuel breaks and wildland-urban interface treatments need to be implemented on millions of hectares across the province to mitigate this threat. So far this is not happening on a large enough scale.