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Local youth help wildfire risk reduction efforts

Local youth took part in a project this year to help protect communities and the surrounding forest from future wildfires.

Officials with Wildsight said the project was designed to better identify and understand what fire risks lie underneath forest canopies that border Cranbrook and Kimberley.

“They were sampling the accumulation of wildfire fuel or potential fuel that had accumulated on the forest floor,” said Tim Chapman, coordinator for the local Youth Climate Corps (YCC). “They also looked at how much regeneration had sprung up in the areas that they were working on.”

Wildsight officials said the YCC worked with wildland fire ecologist Robert Gray, with efforts focused on parts of the forest that had undergone some kind of treatment, such as fuel removal and tree thinning, in the past.

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“Their project is meant to help understand how the forest responds over time in terms of reaccumulating fuels for wildfires and how the risk is elevated through time,” said Chapman.

Wildsight officials said in the past, low-intensity fires set off by natural causes or Indigenous people would have maintained a more open forest ecosystem. The organization added that decades of intense fire suppression work have changed the forests and led to more accumulated fuels and a higher level of wildfire risk, which is further compounded by climate change.

Data collected by the YCC will be used by Gray to better understand what happens after wildfire mitigation work is completed.

“When Grey plugs this data into these various models, it will simulate what the potential fire behaviour would be like if a fire were to come through certain areas if they had these same fuel characteristics on the ground,” said Chapman. “Based on that information, Gray and other forestry professionals can better predict when a where is most necessary and economic to perform maintenance treatments.”

The six-member YCC gathered data from areas around Gold Creek Forest Service Road, the Kimberley Nature Park, and Shadow Mountain. Wildsight officials said they surveyed more than 600 plots, totalling more than 2,000 hectares of wildfire data.

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