Above: Sampling of maps generated for the Peachland Community Wildfire Protection Plan (Valhalla Consulting)
by Dave Preston
A Community Wildfire Protection Plan recently completed for the District of Peachland highlights areas with the potential for high fire risk, but most of the worst areas are on private land and not actionable by the municipality.
Valhalla Consulting was contracted to put the plan together. John Davies told Peachland council Tuesday morning that the plan was funded through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
Davies’ company used mapping from a geographic information system (GIS), along with government supplied data and on the ground observations to produce a series of maps showing various aspects of fire risk to the district.
The maps produced include:
- Suppression constraints – A map showing areas of the district that will be easier or harder for firefighting efforts, including distance from roads, trails and water bodies.
- Risk of ignition – Generally, the closer an area is to a road, trail or campsite, the higher the risk.
- Values at risk – Map of homes, utilities, species at risk, wildlife habitat, sensitive ecosystems.
- Fire behavior – Rated from low to extreme based on fuel types, slope, weather.
“You have a lot of perimeter interface,” said Davies.
Within the district’s boundaries, there are some pockets of very high fire potential, according to Davies. Further out in the wild land, there are large areas of very high fire behavior.
Davies said after the mapping was complete, he visited a number of sites, rated the fuel load and ranked the areas for potential fire risk.
Valhalla came up with 51 interface areas of concern. Of those areas, 46 are on private land and five are on local government or Crown land.
The district can go after available funding for the five government owned areas, but there is little that can be done about private lands under threat.
Peachland can help itself by building fire breaks and cleaning up areas under its responsibility, said Davies.
Fire Chief Grant Topham said the district has had wildfire plans in the past, but recommendations are that they be done every five years.
What’s new with the Valhalla plan is that it includes the effect of pine beetles on area forests and includes areas that have been recently developed.
The plan, “Helps me to show where places are that a fire could start and the fire’s intensity,” said Topham.
Topham said the next step is to review the maps and then go after government funding for mitigation of fire fuels.
In the mean time, Topham is encouraging homeowners to be proactive and have a serious look at their properties. The fire hall has a good supply of Fire Smart manuals, which give good information about how to reduce the potential fire risk on properties.