British Columbia's Wildland Fire Management Strategy will further protect communities from destructive interface fires, while improving forest health and making fire suppression more cost-effective, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell announced today.
"We have one of the best wildfire fighting programs in the world, but as our climate changes, so must our management approach to protect communities and support vibrant forests," said Bell. "This strategy will help us strike a balance between proactive fire management and suppression, and focus our firefighting efforts in key areas, while capitalizing on the ecological benefits of naturally occurring fire."
Historically, wildfires burned approximately 500,000 hectares of land in B.C. annually, however, that area has shrunk to an average of less than 100,000 hectares in recent years. This has altered the natural fire cycle and contributed to fuel buildup as forests age.
The 22-page strategy aims to create a more fire-resilient landscape in British Columbia by meeting five key goals:
* Further reducing the wildfire risk around communities and public infrastructure through proactive fuel management.
* Planning and implementing controlled burns to encourage healthy ecosystems and manage fuel build-up.
* Where appropriate, managing some fires for natural processes and focusing suppression response on high-priority wildfires.
* Encouraging land, natural resource and community planning to incorporate wildland fire management.
* Improving public awareness about wildland fire management.
"We are already implementing many of the strategy's recommendations through our Strategic Wildfire Prevention Program, Community Wildfire Protection Plan initiative and Bioenergy Strategy, but there's always room for innovation," said Bell. "A key component of that will be collaborating more with industry stakeholders, local governments, First Nations and other provincial and federal agencies to ensure wildfire management is considered at all levels of planning."
British Columbia also played a lead part in developing the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy, which aims to restore the natural role of fire in forest ecosystems across the country.
More than 1,600 wildfires consumed nearly 338,000 hectares of forest and grassland during the 2010 wildfire season, resulting in several evacuation alerts and orders across the Cariboo and Northwest. As of Sept. 21, more than $200 million has been spent on fire suppression.
Since 2004, the Province has provided more than $37 million to local governments, through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, to help pay for interface fire preparation. Nearly 200 local government governments and First Nations have either completed or are in the process of completing community wildfire protection plans.
Complete copies of the British Columbia Wildland Fire Management Strategy are available on the Ministry of Forests and Range website at: http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/pab/media/bell/2010/bcwfms.pdf