The board for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen heard from a representative with the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. (FESBC) about initiatives taking place in the area to help reduce the risk of wildfires.
Steve Kozuki, executive director of FESBC, said there are currently 10 projects in the Okanagan Shuswap Resource District that are funded by FESBC.
Within the RDOS, one fuel management project is taking place at locations on Ellis and Penticton Creeks. Kozuki said this type of project “typically has three objectives: reduce the amount of fuel, reducing ladder fuels to prevent infernos and thinning the number of trees to prevent crown fires.”
“The first objective is about reducing the type of woody material that would burn, and by doing that it’s reducing the amount of energy that is released in the fire,” said Kozuki. “If you’re not dealing with a raging inferno, it gives the firefighters a better chance.”
Kozuki explained the second objective is concerned with preventing fires from entering the treetops, creating an inferno that is harder for firefighters to control.
“If there’s a fire that creeps along on the surface of the ground, we can deal with it. But if the fire travels from the ground into the treetops, then you have what we call a raging inferno,” said Kozuki.
“So in a treatment area, we’ll eliminate the ladder fuels like leaning trees, branches that go all the way down to the ground, etc.”
Thinning the amount of trees in an area is necessary to reduce the chance of a crown fire, said Kozuki. This is when the “fire goes from one tree to another” and it is “extremely difficult for firefighters to deal with.”
“Homes and communities are at an extreme risk in a crown fire situation,” said Kozuki.
“To reduce that risk, we’ll take a forest where the branches of one tree are intertwined with the branches of another, we’ll reduce the number of trees and create a physical space between one treetop and another.”
Kozuki said that when trees are cut down for these fuel management projects it’s common to slash burn the refuse.
But pending on the project and the location, there are other methods of reusing the fuels that have multiple benefits.
“If the circumstances are right, we will utilize that biomass and covert it into bioenergy. Bioenergy can be pellets, which are a substitute for coal. We can also use it for pulp products,” said Kozuki.
“We do have a couple of projects where we have access to cogeneration (co-gen) facilities. What a co-gen facility does is it takes woody biomass and converts it into electricity directly.”
Kozuki said this is an example of how forestry in B.C. is helping the country “meet our climate change targets under the Paris agreement.”
“When we do enhanced utilization, which could be the utilization of woody material in a fuel treatment area, there are two greenhouse gas benefits,” said Kozuki.
“By not slash burning, we avoid carbon emissions. The second one is if it’s used for green energy, it can displace fossil fuels since wood is carbon neutral.”
The FESBC is also working with the Penticton Indian Band at Garnet Valley to help improve the habitat for ungulate, such as mule deer, in the winter.
Kozuki said this is an example of some of the projects where First Nations people are “taking the lead in improving conditions in their natural territories.”
“For FESBC, for all of the $163 million we’ve allocated across the 171 projects to date, 30 per cent of that money has gone to projects where First Nations’ have a significant participation,” said Kozuki.
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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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