Sicamous wildfire mitigation will open recreation opportunities

Project will remove fire fuels from a forested slope just east of the district.

Sicamous will be safer from forest fires once a project they are partnering with the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. (FESBC) on gets underway.

The aim of the project, valued at almost $1,000,000, is to protect some of Sicamous’ important infrastructure and transportation networks from the threat of wildfire by thinning out forest fuels from an area on the eastern edge of the community.

District of Sicamous Fire Chief Brett Ogino said the project will take place in two steps, the first being commercial thinning of the overstory in the forest which dominates the west slope of the Owlhead Mountain. The second step, which will be funded by FESBC according to a joint press release from the district and the forest enhancement society, involves thinning the forest fuel out of the forest’s understory. Ogino said that by conducting thinning and brushing to remove fuel from the understory, they can reduce wildfire intensity and make it less likely that a fire would spread to the treetops.

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“The area becomes increasingly drier in the summers and is a primary access point for thousands of recreational users. We still want people to be able to access these areas safely and enable our fire crews to have safer and easier access in the event of a wildfire,” he said.

Sicamous’ operations manager, Joe McCulloch, said the work will open up recreational opportunities as well as help keep the community safe from fire. Along with fire protection, another benefit of the work will be the clearance of space for a planned mountain bike park. In addition, the wood fibre taken off the hillside could be used for the bioenergy system Sicamous is in the process of planning and designing. The proposed system will eventually use woodwaste to heat and power a few large public buildings in Sicamous.

The Splatsin First Nation offered Sicamous a letter of support for the project.

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Dave Conly, a representative of FESBC, said wildfire hazards are significant in the area but they can be managed through proper fuel management treatments.

“We are impressed with the DOS’s (District of Sicamous) plan as it shows strong co-ordination and collaboration between multiple interest groups and agencies to ultimately achieve a number of objectives, with the reduction of wildfire risk in critical areas adjacent to infrastructure being a high priority,” he said.


@SalmonArm
jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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