Forest fire experts: Nelson could burn

Council urged to work with surrounding governments to prepare for the worst.

This 2015 photo shows how close the Sitkum fire came to Highway 3A

Did the Sitkum forest fire get your attention?

According to forest fire consultants Bruce Blackwell and John Cathro, if things had gotten out of hand there Nelson could have easily burned to the ground.

And during their presentation to city council on Monday evening they urged local governments to work together to prepare for the worst.

“Nelson is in my top ten towns in B.C. and Alberta for wildfire danger,” Blackwell told council, summarizing some of the findings of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update.

“I would classify Fort McMurray as low to moderate risk. Nelson faces a far greater risk.”

As Cathro put it, “you don’t put out a fire when the flames have started. You start with education”. And now that council knows how serious the situation is, the pair urged them to commit to collaborating with other stakeholders such as BC Parks and the RDCK.

Sitting with them during the presentation to council was Nelson Fire Chief Len MacCharles, who helped fight the 2011 forest fire that razed Slave Lake and forced the town’s evacuation. He knows firsthand how to approachlarge-scale emergency, and how crucial inter-agency collaboration is.

“This truly collaborative approach is both unique and needed to be effective at reducing the risk of wildfire in a meaningful way and will demonstrate leadership in the province,” reads the report.

The trio told council they need to be thinking about things like upgrading their water systems, encouraging homeowners to adopt FireSmart principles on their private land, increasing the training available and setting up a West Arm steering committee that could coordinate wildfire preparedness.

And there’s funding available to make this happen. They pointed to the UBCM Strategic Wildfire Protection Initiative, the Forest Enhancement Society and the Columbia Basin Trust as possible partners.

This isn’t the first time council has heard about the risk of forest fires. Following a series of fires over the course of summer of 2015, climate scientist Mel Reasoner and conservation ecologist Greg Utzig warned that the frequency and intensity of forest fires has spiked in recent years.

In the report “Climate Change and Area Burned: Projections for the West Kootenays”, Utzig predicted that Kootenay residents can expect quadruple to quintuple the average of area burned by forest fires within the next half decade.

The wildfire update presented to council on Monday outlines 32 recommendations to reduce the community’s risk profile, stresses that collaboration with adjacent jurisdictions is crucial, and urged them to prioritize the recommendations in preparation for implementation. That presentation is attached below.

“Municipalities should not sit and wait for the province to solve this. You need to be on an accelerated track,” said Blackwell.

With files from Bill Metcalfe

 

Fire protection plan

Just Posted

Logging protester arrested near Balfour

Jessica Ogden remains in custody until a hearing date is set

First Nations included in latest Columbia River Treaty talks

Seventh round of negotiations between Canada and U.S. wrap up in Washington D.C.

Close to 1000 people expected to hear international evangelist Angus Buchan this weekend

The Mighty Men’s Conference is taking place in Castlegar June 28-30.

Former Nelson swimmers competing in NCAA

Jordan and Kelsey Andrusak will be rivals in in the Western Athletic Conference

Video shows fireworks shot at swan in Alberta

Alberta Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident in Grande Prairie

B.C. teen killed by fallen tree on field trip remembered as hero

13-year-old Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling and warned his friends

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

‘Text neck’ causing bone spurs to grow from millennials’ skulls, researchers say

Technology use from early childhood causing abnormal bone growths in 41 per cent of young adults

Should B.C. get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The province wants to know, as state governments down south make the move

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadians crash out of Women’s World Cup in 0-1 loss to Sweden

Canada missed a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot

Four-year-old boy assaulted at B.C. soccer game

It happened at a weekend tournament in Ashcroft

Two bear cubs saved near Revelstoke after mother hit by car

Conservation officers trapped the cubs and transported them to a wildlife sanctuary

Most Read