Forest cleanup underway in Central Kootenay to help prevent future wildfire damage

Potential fuel is being removed from eight square kilometres of forest to create a buffer zone for communities in the district.

Potential fuel being removed from 8 sq. km of forest to create buffer zone for communities

A forest cleanup team meets in the Central Kootenay district. (Mark Elder)

A rural district in British Columbia is cleaning up its forests by removing dead wood and other debris that could help wildfires spread.

The Central Kootenay Regional District says it's beginning forest-cleaning prescriptions to better protect communities and infrastructure from the threat of fires.

"What it starts with is a community wildfire protection plan," said Aimee Watson, local director of the district for the north end of Kootenay Lake.

"We've done those for most of the areas in the regional district. And that plan identifies areas of interest … where we should be doing treatments," she told Audrey McKinnon, guest host of CBC's Radio West.

Assisted by funding from the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the district is removing potential fuel for fires from more than 800 hectares (eight square kilometres) of forest across the district, focusing on land close to urban areas. 

Forest cleaning includes thinning, spacing and pruning trees, and removing needles and woody debris from the forest floor, said Watson.

Aimee Watson, left, tours the Hamill Creek area looking for potential helipad locations with with Richard and Ann Brenton, part of the fire-mitigation planning process. (John Cathro)

"Every forest is different and every climate is different. It depends on the species you're dealing with within that forest," Watson said. "Older trees that have a lot of strength to them are carrying a lot of water and are less likely to burn."

The crews contracted to clean forests aim to clear out a 10- to 20-kilometre buffer of land between communities and uncleared forest, said Watson. This should redirect fires to go further into wild areas away from towns and homes.

Despite the forest-cleaning drive, Watson said more funding is needed to make a significant impact on fire prevention.

"This is not going to go away. And when we do treatments, it is not a one-stop shop treatment. We're going to have to maintain it. So we're hoping that we're going to hear of new funding coming soon," she said.

Listen to the full interview:

Aimee Watson, local director of the Central Kootenay Regional District for the north end of Kootenay Lake, explains to Radio West guest host Audrey McKinnon how fire mitigation works. 7:42

With files from Radio West

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