FNESS ~ Forest Fuel Management respectfully acknowledging our Community Profile ~ Splatsin

Wildfire is a natural process within the forested landscapes of BC. While the risk of wildfire cannot be eliminated, we can effectively prepare for wildland fires by reducing fire behavior potential in fire-prone areas. In recent years, public awareness of the threat of interface fires has been heightened by wildfire events in our province. This Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) has been developed to address the threat of wildfires in the wildland-urban interface zone (WUI) in Splatsin reserve territory.

The overall objective of this plan is to provide recommendations that will reduce the wildfire risk within and adjacent to the WUI of the Splatsin reserves. Specifically, the objectives are to:

  • Assess wildfire risk on a landscape level and recommend strategies to reduce this risk; and
  • Assess the fuel hazard within WUI polygons, prioritize high risk areas to allow for the effective allocation of funds for treatments, and recommend general fuel treatment strategies that will reduce the risk to structures and human lives

The study area for this project extends to the legal boundaries of the Splatsin reserves but the fire behavior modeling was done for a distance 3km beyond the Splatsin reserve boundary to demonstrate the adjacent hazard. The fuel hazard assessment and subsequent fuel management recommendations include all forested stands that are greater than 1 hectare (ha) in size and within 100m of structures. All forested interface areas within the Splatsin reserves boundaries were assessed including any:

  • Parklands
  • Greenbelts
  • Provincial and federal lands
  • Privately owned lands

It is generally viewed that fire suppression, forest management policy, and climate change have created conditions that have led to this historic outbreak. Fire exclusion and forest management have resulted in a large amount of lodgepole pine in the susceptible older age classes and the unusually warm, recent winters have allowed the outbreak to continue to grow.

While there are large tracts of lodgepole pine located to the west of the Splatsin reserves boundary, there are no large stands located within the Splatsin reserves. However, the current MPB has impacted the extensive stands of yellow pine found within the Splatsin reserves. The resulting mortality and associated fuel hazard pose a significant wildfire threat within the interface. 

While the Splatsin reserves contains an extensive WUI zone, there are some areas that contain deciduous tree species, which contribute to lower fire behavior and crown fire potential than coniferous tree species. Similarly, there are agricultural areas or natural grasslands for which fire behavior would also be low (not including rate of spread in some grassland areas).

Sixteen national benchmark fuel types are used by the Canadian Fire Behavior Prediction System. This system divides fuels into five major groups and 16 more specific fuel types. These groups are used to describe fuels according to stand structure, species composition, surface and ladder fuels and the organic (duff) layer.

The fuel types were derived by running the vegetation resources inventory database for this area through an algorithm. If possible, these areas were updated using existing inventories, field reconnaissance, or air photo interpretation.

Over the last century, human activity has altered the natural disturbance patterns and ecological processes that have historically maintained the integrity of our ecosystems. Urban development, resource harvesting, agriculture, range use, wildfire suppression, and the introduction of non-native species are among some of the influences that have changed natural ecosystem succession. As a result, biological and physical stresses are being expressed across the province, including fuel hazard accumulations, forest insect outbreaks as well as displaced and stressed wildlife populations.

Hazardous fuel accumulations in our forests, and the related threat from wildfires, have become a growing concern across the province. Catastrophic fires of this nature threaten structures and human lives, impact wildlife populations, damage soils, contribute to invasive plant propagation, increase erosion, degrade water quality and increase show term air pollution. Such fires are a stark reminder of how vulnerable our communities are to wildfires.

As we continue to suppress natural fires in fire-dominated ecosystems and leave the accumulating fuels untreated, there is a high probability that a large-scale wildfire is imminent. Compounding this threat is the continuing development of homes into the urban/wildland interface. Splatsin recognizes this growing risk and has taken the initiative to responsibly assess and manage wildfire risk within its boundaries.

Compliments of Splatsin: