British Columbia

Where there's smoke, there's ire: Green MLA criticizes slash burning after hazy Halloween

A Green Party MLA says smoky skies over southern Vancouver Island Wednesday night highlight outdated forestry practices in B.C. The haze was caused by a forestry company’s controlled burns of slash in the Shirley and Sooke areas.

Forests Minister says carbon tax might be applied to slash burning — but not immediately

MLA Adam Olsen posted this photo on his Facebook page of what he said was a slash pile burning on Vancouver Island on Halloween afternoon. (Adam Olsen, MLA - Saanich North and the Islands/Facebook)

A Green Party MLA says smoky skies over southern Vancouver Island Wednesday night highlight outdated forestry practices in B.C.

The Halloween night haze was caused by a forestry company TimberWest's controlled burns in the Shirley and Sooke areas, Langford Fire Rescue confirmed. TimberWest says it is investigating complaints.

"We take precautions to ensure that appropriate conditions are in place for prescribed burning in accordance to venting regulations," TimberWest spokeswoman Monica Bailey said.

Residents on the West Shore, Victoria and Saanich started reporting the smoke smell around 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 31. The B.C. Air Quality Health Index map showed the air quality was rated seven for a short amount of time, which is a high health risk.

The B.C. Forest Service confirmed the prescribed burns of slash piles, which are waste cuttings, stumps and branches from logging operations. 

Both Langford Fire Rescue and the Saanich Fire Department responded to the multiple calls but said there were no active fires in either of the area.

Carbon tax as solution?

Green MLA Adam Olsen, who represents Saanich North and the Islands, said the burning of slash is an out-of-date practice that shows B.C.'s forestry regulations are behind the times.

"Slash" is a term for excess cuttings that accumulate in forestry work. MLA Adam Olsen posted this photos of a Vancouver Island slash pile on his Facebook page. (Adam Olsen, MLA - Saanich North and the Islands/Facebook)

Olsen told All Points West host Robyn Burns that at the very least, forestry companies should have to pay the carbon tax on what they burn.

"It's the quickest and easiest way to get rid of excess fibre but it's certainly detrimental to the environment in terms of emissions," he said, adding the NDP has committed to applying the tax to slash burning but had not yet done so.

Olsen said companies should be looking for "innovative" ways to reuse the waste material, perhaps as firewood, wood pellets or bioplastics.

B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said the government would look at applying carbon tax on slash burning "in the next couple of years."

Listen to the full interview with MLA Adam Olsen:

With files from Chek News and CBC Radio One's All Points West

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