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HomeCranbrook NewsPrescribed burns a necessary nuisance to curb wildfire growth

Prescribed burns a necessary nuisance to curb wildfire growth

Regional District of East Kootenay chair Rob Gay says the prescribed burns being done in the region are a crucial part of reducing wildfire risk.

Burns have been a part of the ecosystem here forever.

“The Rocky Mountain Trench is the way that it is because of burns, but they were low-impact burns,” Gay said.

“They burnt frequently every 10-15 years.”

But modern firefighting tactics changed the intensity of the fires we now see every year.

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“For basically the last 100 years our mandate has been to put out fires before they start,” he added.

“We’ve created a situation where we have way more fuel out there and you can’t get these light low-impact burns anymore, you get more intense ones.”

Prescribed burns help slow the spread of out-of-control wildfires while also improving forest health.

This area saw the benefits last summer during the St. Mary wildfire.

The fire that destroyed seven homes in the ʔaq̓am community could have been even more devastating if not for a large controlled burn in the spring.

Over 1,300 hectares were burned between ʔaq̓am and the Canadian Rockies International Airport and it’s believed the airport as well as 80-100 homes could have been destroyed if not for the burn.

There was some community backlash to the planned ignition last spring complaining about the smoke from the fire.

Gay hopes people now realize this is a necessary part of living in the Kootenays.

“If we want to look after our ecosystems, unfortunately, we’re going to have to put up with some of the fire and some of the smoke that’s created,” he said.

“That’s where we live.”

Three prescribed burns have already been conducted in the region this spring.

Something going on in your part of the Kootenays you think people should know about? Send us a news tip by emailing [email protected].


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