A BC Wildfire Services map shows the number of lightning strikes spawned by a storm in B.C. Tuesday, July 19. There were no new fire starts in the Shuswap but the Wildfire Service was expecting more storms to roll through the area on Wednesday afternoon. (BC Wildfire Services image)

A BC Wildfire Services map shows the number of lightning strikes spawned by a storm in B.C. Tuesday, July 19. There were no new fire starts in the Shuswap but the Wildfire Service was expecting more storms to roll through the area on Wednesday afternoon. (BC Wildfire Services image)

Deadfalls in Salmon Arm pose risk for wildfires

Resident emphasizes need for fuel management plan in Little Mountain Park.

  • Jul. 18, 2018 6:15 p.m.

Little Mountain Park is considered by many to be a jewel in the Salmon Arm landscape.

But, like neighbouring Crown land, much of it is littered with deadfalls and a thick duff or forest debris layer.

“All it takes is one match,” says Michel Landry, who often walks his dogs there and has photographed many areas of the park. “I am very concerned about the incredible amount of dead wood lying on the ground everywhere. Should a wildfire ever take hold in the park, I think it would be very difficult to control.”

A retired helicopter pilot, Landry has fought wildfires across Canada and in Australia and has seen how quickly they can rage out of control. And he points out that while the Rapattack Base is located near the Salmon Arm Airport, personnel are not always there.

“A thorough fuel management (program) might be in order and a fuel removal plan should be looked at,” he says.

Related: Approaches differ on reducing city’s fire risk

Fire Chief Brad Shirley agrees but says the previous government’s Strategic Wildfire Protection Initiative to provide support to communities for fuel management projects omitted funding for municipal lands.

But changes may be on the horizon.

Early last July, then-minister of transportation Todd Stone announced a provincial state of emergency – the first one in 14 years.

Following what was one of the province’s worst wildfire seasons, former Shuswap MLA George Abbott and Chief Maureen Chapman of the First Nations Lands Advisory Board produced a detailed report on 2017 flooding and wildfires in B.C.

Following a review by the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC, the province implemented 19 of the report’s 108 recommendations.

In May of this year, Doug Donaldson, minister of Forests, Lands, Resource Operations and Rural Development, stated the BC Wildfire Service will be working with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and First Nations’ Emergency Services Society on a review of how the the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative is funded and how it can be integrated with other land-based wildfire prevention and wildfire-risk reduction investments.

“Their 108 recommendations will take some time to fully consider. There are some recommendations that are being acted upon already,” said Donaldson. “For example, as part of Budget 2018, we’re committing $50 million over three years to wildfire prevention and wildfire risk reduction around communities.”

Shirley says he heard the possibility of new funding at a recent fire chiefs’ conference and is hopeful Salmon Arm might benefit.

“The current model is not working,” he said. “It’s frustrating not getting support from government.”

The need for a new wildfire prevention initiative was brought home again Tuesday night when a widespread thunderstorm brought an end to what had been a relatively quiet fire season in the Kamloops Fire Centre.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, lightning strikes spawned 22 new wildfires in the Kamloops Fire Centre Tuesday, with all available resources responding Wednesday, including, air tankers, helicopters, ground crews and rappel crews.

Additional resources were brought in Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning from around the province to assist around the Okanagan and Similkameen.

Related: Lightning strikes spark 38 fires in B.C., 13 in the Okanagan.

Environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Erven says there were 173 lightning strikes in the Shuswap, between Adams Lake and the Armstrong area, but no new fire starts as of early Wednesday afternoon.

While the Shuswap appears to have remained unscathed by the storm, the Kamloops Fire Centre was expecting more thunderstorms and dry lightning in the north Kamloops, Vernon, Lillooet and North Thompson areas later Wednesday.


@SalmonArm
barbbrouwer@saobserver.net

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