From left: Steve Giesbrecht, Griffin Weiss, Acura Aryana and Eric VanderKwaak are members of the crews responsible for wildfire mitigation efforts near Sicamous. (FESBC image)

From left: Steve Giesbrecht, Griffin Weiss, Acura Aryana and Eric VanderKwaak are members of the crews responsible for wildfire mitigation efforts near Sicamous. (FESBC image)

Million-dollar mitigation: ‘Impressive’ Sicamous wildfire prevention work almost done

Grant from Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia funded project which began in fall 2020

A million-dollar wildfire risk reduction project near Sicamous is almost complete.

On Dec. 8, District Fire Chief Brett Ogino explained a grant of just under $1 million from the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia (FESBC) was obtained to pay for it.

Ogino said the main focus of the project — which began in the Fall of 2020 — was to remove ground fuels, such as trees felled by storms and dead branches; and ladder fuels, such as branches and vegetation from the base of a tree to about two or three metres up its trunk.

Eliminating these fuels reduces the risk of a ground fire reaching the top (crown) of a tree, where it’s much harder for firefighters on the ground to fight. Ogino said most wildfires start as ground fires, whether by lightning or by humans.

“Once the crews have gone through, it’s like walking through a park,” said Ogino. “They’ve cleaned up so much, taken care of all the dead branches and knocked down small trees, even bigger trees… It’s quite impressive actually.”

The area where crews are working on wildfire mitigation now is near the site of a proposed Sicamous mountain bike park. Ogino noted how nice views were opened up and how the chance of a wildfire being started by a recreational user was reduced.

In addition to reducing wildfire risk, the mitigation project has other benefits. Ogino said some of the fuels removed already will be chipped and used to create biomass energy. While it’s not up and running yet, Ogino said in the future, the District of Sicamous hopes to use fuel from wildfire-mitigation efforts to power its own biomass heating system.

Read more: Sicamous council approves purchase of biomass heating system for industrial park

In a Dec. 8 news release, FESBC communications liaison Aleece Laird shared details about some of the companies doing wildfire mitigation work.

Registered professional forester Steve Giesbrecht thought this summer’s Two Mile Road wildfire might enter the area he was working in.

“In the end it didn’t, but it confirmed the importance of the work we’re doing… if we can keep fires lower to the ground and out of the tops or the crown, we give firefighters a better chance to control a wildfire.”

The area where work has been ongoing is on Sicamous’ eastern boundary, an area with dense second growth Douglas fir, larch, cedar and hemlock trees that extend from mountain tops to valley bottoms, wrote Laird.

Nadine Overwater owns Nakimu Venture Inc.; she said her crews have been doing work by hand and with smaller, more maneuverable machines.

“It’s been hard work due to the steep terrain,” she said. “…We’re very happy to be a part of this work and will be wrapping up what we can in the next few weeks before the snow is too deep… and plan to do some final work next spring.”

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B.C. Wildfires 2021forestry