A story about fire break work in the South Cariboo
By Max Winkelman
In the 100 Mile House area, 120,000 hectares of land were damaged as a result of wildfires in 2017 in a fire season that saw over 65,000 people evacuated in the province. The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is trying to prevent that from happening again.
For the South Cariboo area, this means many kilometres of proposed fire breaks.
“We’ve identified two different types of fire breaks that we do,” says Rob Martin, Land and Resource Planning Specialist for the 100 Mile House Natural Resource District.
The first type, are interface fuel breaks which exist near residential areas.
“These ones are meant to change fire behaviour, basically to prevent, as much as possible, fire from moving into the community and also fire from moving out into the forest because we both know fire goes both ways.”
Looking back at 2017 a lot of fires actually started in residential areas. The two most destructive fires in the South Cariboo in 2017, the Elephant Hill wildfire, at 192,000 hectares, and the Gustafsen Wildfire, at 5,700 hectares, are both believed to be human caused and started relatively close to residential areas. The cause for each is still under investigation.
“We are removing the surface fuels and then we’re removing the laddering fuels because what we don’t want is to get into the crown. So we don’t want a crown fire. We also don’t want it totally clearcut because you do that then all you get is grasses coming up and you get a different type of fire hazard. So we’re trying to keep it shaded so it keeps the forest floor a little [moist] and then there’s less maintenance over time because if you clear cut it you got grasses, you got shrubs and then you have to continually maintain it.”
The interface fuel breaks are typically around 100 metres wide.
The other type of fuel breaks are landscape fuel breaks which are approximately 300 metres wide. They are the same type of thing, however, according to Martin in that they’re supposed to be shaded fuel breaks. They also still try to remove as much of the forest floor fuels as possible.
However, a main difference is that in the interface fire breaks, they’ll also prune branches. Overall that makes it a lot more park-like, according to Martin.
When it comes to the landscape fuel breaks, the intent is for an approaching fire to drop to the ground.
“The ones at the communities and the ones that we’ve got here [landscape breaks] are not designed for the Elephant Hill fire size. You just can’t really do anything there. So this is more for your typical fire.”