Only saints can prevent forest fires.

Rumour Mill RoundUpDate Vol. 15 Issue 18

In this synchronistic edtion (#18 on the 18th) we editorialize about firebugs and fire prevention, clarify things about the Forest Practices Board latest report, cite WUI fuel management success, look for tree tally testers and anticipate the Forest Safety Ombudsman report on getting injured workers out of the woods.

Warning: Some of the contents of this editon may contain opinions.

Will punishing firebugs prevent forest fires?

Only saints can prevent forest fires.
Only saints can prevent forest fires.
It is said Saint  Patrick rid Ireland of snakes. But it will take more than a saint to rid British Columbia of the careless and ignorant. Government’s pending law to increase punishment for those who cause wildfires will not likely reduce the number of wildfires in the province. Nor will it do much to restore the tragic losses, or mitigate the trauma of the disastrous wildfires we’ve seen this and other summers, and will continue to see in the future. Wildfires are inevitable. Humans and lightning will continue to cause them. Nevertheless wildfire disasters are not inevitable. They are the product of the order of things in the province. Social, political, economic and cultural factors all play a part in how a force of nature becomes a disaster. The action government needs to take to mitigate the growing wildfire hazard should reflect a deeper understanding of current events and the situation we face. It’s own reports show government is aware of the problem including where the innovative remedies lie. It has to now clarify its intentions and give consistent traction to its commitments to reduce the provincial wildfire threat. And it needs to make better risk-related decisions than increasing the fines for fire bugs. These right actions would send a more constructive message to the public and go a much longer way to reduce the likelihood and consequences of disastrous wild fires in B.C.

WUI fuel treatment: it works.

Less forest fuel equals less forest fire.
Less forest fuel equals less forest fire.
An eleven-hectare forest fuel treatment on Kootenay Lake likely saved residents from a much larger wildfire during this August’s dry spell according to the Regional District of Central Kootenay. The suspicious fire near the rural community of Balfour is still under investigation. But it is obvious that the prior clearing and burning of forest debris along with thinning and limbing played a major part in allowing local fire fighters to quickly bring the ignition under control. The treated area included ingrown forest in a regional park containing critical nesting habitat and similar stands adjacent to homes along the main Highway 31 north-south corridor and lakeshore. A ten-person local forestry crew had worked the previous fall for two months under contract to the RDCK on the UBCM-funded project. The Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative, which supports wildland urban interface fuel management programs through the UBCM, continues to face uncertain funding from the provincial government. 

BC Forest Safety Ombudsman to report on remote workplace emergency response

Forest Safety Ombudsman Roger Harris: Can we better the odds for injured workers in remote locations?
Forest Safety Ombudsman Roger Harris: Can we better the odds for injured workers in remote locations?
The province’s Forest Safety Ombudsman has announced he will report this fall on matters related to emergencies and workplace injuries in remote forest sector worksites. Roger Harris intends to look into circumstances and conditions that may contribute to delays in getting injured workers to appropriate care. This undertaking has been prompted by specific complaints made to his office and general industry concerns and experiences with the consequences of serious incidents on remote locations. Harris’s examination occurs alongside ongoing work with the BC SAFE Silviculture Program and the Coast Harvest Advisory Group to develop strategies to get workers to care within the so-called Golden Hour. It also falls into an area of larger public concern. A 2010 UNBC study found that in the rural-remote northwest of B.C. the majority of trauma deaths (82%) occurred before victims reached hospital. The report cited both institutional and practical obstacles to trauma patients receiving timely care. Given that many remote forestry worksites are well off beaten paths, such as major highways and communities, the odds today are likely worse for workers who suffer life or limb-threatening injuries. 

Reading between the lines of the Forest Practices Board

Last edition we expressed an opinion, more like a surmise, that the Forest Practices Board was finding fault with provincial forest regulation. We said we read that between the lines of its recently released report on forest stewardship plans. But actually the Board was quite clear that the regulations were not at fault themselves. Rather the deficiency was in the failure of many of those cited in the report to properly use the regulations. That was their point and that is what they said. So why might we, well-informed and impartial as we are, read something different into the report? The best we can offer is that back in the first parliament of the BC Liberals (a while back) the WSCA was an eager spear carrier for the new government and its rolling out of FRPA. We saw the shift from prescriptive to results-based as a way to give foresters new latitude to try creative and innovative forestry in the province. A decade later and its hard to come up with many examples of where that has actually happened. In fact we have seen a lot of the opposite. The Forest Practices Board report seemed to confirm that. We agree the regulation may not be the problem. But it might have worked better if the law was a little more specific on how foresters were to reach the aspirational objectives many of us counted on and believed were part of the original bargain. 

Real live actually planting treeplanters needed to test new tree counting smartphone app

If you are a real live tree planter planting trees this fall we need you to help test our new Tree Tally app. This under development free app for both Android and iOS is designed to allow workers to record their hours and days worked, trees planted, prices paid per tree, blocks, species etc. and generally keep track of themselves and their work performed. The app keeps a running score and among many other things provides prompts for paydays and does minimum wage calculations. If you want to help test the app now please get in touch. Contact: John Betts, admin@wfca.ca