British Columbia

Prescribed burns planned for southern Vancouver Island

The B.C. Wildfire service will be starting a fire to intentionally burn away unwanted vegetation — and prevent fires — on southern Vancouver Island. 

Burns meant to restore ecosystem by eliminating invasive species, remove excess fuel build-up

A firefighter watches a prescribed burn proceed near Lytton on April 2, 2014. (B.C. Wildfire Management Branch)

The B.C. Wildfire service will be starting a fire to intentionally burn away unwanted vegetation — and prevent fires — in Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve and Rocky Point on southern Vancouver Island. 

Daniel Taudin-Chabot, a wildfire technician at the Cobble Hill fire base, will serve as the supervisor or "burn boss" for the upcoming burns. 

He says controlled burning is an ancient practice.

"Back in the day before settler contact, First Nations would use fire to kind of clear the land and provide that nice savanna that we see in the Garry Oak ecosystems," he told host Robyn Burns on CBC's All Points West.

"Once settlers arrived we kind of stopped doing that and we turned to a 'fire-on-the-landscape-as-bad' model and just suppressed everything."

Taudin-Chabot says this led to fuel accumulation and the encroachment of invasive species. 

"When you introduce fire, it actually kills off a lot of the invasive species and it allows for the native species to actually take hold and ... be brought back to more of a natural state."

Burns planned in 2 locations

There are burns planned in two locations: a 1.5-hectare burn in the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, and a second 20-hectare burn in Rocky Point, Metchosin at the Canadian Armed Forces base.

With a supervised, prescribed burn, Taudin-Chabot says there are multiple crews on the ground to do the burning, contain the fire to the set area and put out the fire, if necessary.

In addition, crews are constantly monitoring the weather and have water on hand in case the fire gets out of control.

The ideal length of the fire would be until all the invasive species die, but because of public pressure the fire is often put out sooner than that — within 24 hours. 

After the fire is put out, it is still monitored daily to make sure another fire isn't sparked from buried embers.

There have been prescribed burns in both locations previously. There was a burn last year in Rocky Point and a burn in 2016 in the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve.

"If we had good success, we might leave it for a year and wait and see what kind of invasive species are popping up and then go back in again," Taudin-Chabot says.

The two controlled burns are scheduled to take place in September or October this year, when site and weather conditions are favourable.

Listen to the segment on All Points West:

With files from All Points West


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