By: The Prince George Citizen
The Little Bobtail Lake forest fire may have had only a limited impact on that area’s fibre supply.
Initial estimates indicate that while the fire is large, only about 25 per cent of the area burned is timber and the remainder either previously harvested or not forest to begin with, Canfor communications director Corinne Stavness said Wednesday.
“About 3,000 hectares of the area burned was slated to be planted this year, and we will also be replanting any burnt area that had been planted in previous years but had not yet reached free growing requirements,” Staveness said.
Staveness stressed the fire, which was covering about 25,000 square hectares on Wednesday, was still moving, “so all we can provide is a high level estimate.”
With climate change taking hold, Vanderhoof mayor Gerry Thiessen believes more fires of this type will erupt in the years to come unless something is done. He is calling for an emphasis on landscape-level harvesting plans, where plots are designed to slow down fires, and for a return to slash burning to lessen the fuel that a wildfire can consume.
Thiessen also said crews will have to get used to battling forest fires earlier in the year. He understands the Little Bobtail Lake fire, which was human caused, was covering just 20 hectares when it was first discovered and appears to have caught the province’s wildfire management branch by surprise.
“Fires, when they’re small, they’re able to deal with them,” Thiessen said. “Once they get to a certain magnitude, they build a whole climate of their own, with wind and all the things that go along with it.”
Once the fire season is over, Thiessen would like to see himself and the mayors of Prince George and Quesnel meet with government officials to look at ways to prevent similar events in the future.
“How do we attack fires? How do we address this kind of thing, to eliminate these huge kinds of fires that just totally scorch the landscape,” Thiessen said.
The Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resource Operations said a landscape plan has been completed for the Vanderhoof portion of the Prince George timber supply area and plans are being drafted for the Fort St. James portion and for the Morice and Lakes timber supply areas.
Plans have also been completed for the Merritt and Soo timber supply areas
“The target is to have three landscape fire management plans initiated annually, so that the 13 ‘very high’ and ‘high’ risk-threat districts in the province will be completed within the next four years,” the ministry said.
“Ongoing planning will take place in the ‘moderate’ and ‘low’ risk districts, with the objective of completing the whole province in 10 years.”
New forestry licences that encourage the use of wood that was previously considered waste have also been introduced. “This is now being ground up and being shipped for use in pellet plants or cogeneration,” the ministry said.