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B.c. Firestorms Ignite Controversy Over Burn Polic

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Monday, 2003 August 25 - Page A6


B.C. firestorms ignite controversy over burn policies


By Rod Mickleburgh



VANCOUVER -- The terrible destruction caused by what is generally conceded to be British Columbia's worst forest-fire season has renewed controversy over the long-standing policy of putting all fires out rather than letting some of them burn.

Naturally caused fires and controlled, intentionally set fires, can actually lessen the danger of extreme wildfires such as the ones that have devastated the B.C. Interior this summer. Carefully watched fires burn through thick underbrush and old flammable material on the forest floor, eliminating the potential buildup of fuel that can transform small blazes, with a bit of wind in dry conditions, into raging firestorms.


"Everything you walk on that crunches, all that brush and dead material is fuel. Fire consumes all of that," veteran forest-fire watcher Al Beaver said yesterday. "So what you get in B.C. is more of a fuel problem than a fire problem. If you manage the fuel, there's less of a problem."


But B.C. has abandoned prescribed burning in recent years, despite warnings that conditions were becoming increasingly dangerous in the woods.


In a sense, we are victims of our own success at suppressing fires once they start, said Mr. Beaver, who works with the fire protection branch in the Yukon.


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Also it should also be said that the pine beetle we hear so much about now is not a recent invention. They used to be kept in check by mother nature and her annual fires. There are always trade-offs.






(love that edit button. Need one at home sometimes)







Admit nothing, deny everything and in fact, make counter allegations.

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I was told that the increase in the beetle population was also the result of the global warming that permitted the survival of the beetle further and further north...


And the increase in dead trees as a result of the increase in the beetle population was another reason for more violent fires in the affected areas...


If it is a recent invention or not, I do not know. But I know of countries who got infected as recent as three years ago and the contaminated area was slowly spreading until they started cutting all the trees and burning them.


Who knows for sure ?

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This same argument is raging in Australia right now... to burn or not to burn?

We fought fire down there last year on ground that had burnt the year before! I'm not totally convinced that in a bad fire year that controlled burns will make that much difference although there may well be an argument that in more moderate years it is helpful. I'll leave this one for the forestry experts.

I guess this issue will be raising it's head all accross europe this year as well. Will be interesting to follow.

Also curious to see what happens with helicopter fire contracts next year given this years devastating fire season so far.


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Aside from global warming and pine beetles is the question of fighting fire in garbage such as found in the north of the prairie provinces and the territories.


Forestry officers there often admit that it's more about creating employment than it is about protecting assets such as traplines and trapper's 'cabins.' Yes, it also provides employment for thee and me but, every time we lose a machine and crew in those circumstances, I rage at the waste and stupidity of it.


As well, I've been privy to more runaway prescribed burns in the last few years than ever before. One truly wonders about the competence of some of the folks involved, let alone the power struggles around who decides if and when to burn.


Government has shortages of competent decision makers even worse than industry, and most of us are aware of the depth of our own problems.


When we achieve the paradise of good government and competent bureaucracies, working in support of sensibly managed industry, we'll deal effectively with anything that nature brings our way - but don't hold your breath until that day. Just do the best and safest job you can for now, and don't let anyone talk you into scorching your tail feathers for nothing. B)

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"Everything you walk on that crunches, all that brush and dead material is fuel. Fire consumes all of that," veteran forest-fire watcher Al Beaver said yesterday..."


Just what is a "veteran fire watcher" anyway? And if he knows so much, why is he waiting until after the fact to make his opinion known?


Can't believe the "armchair quarterbacks" that come out of the woodwork on these things. And I hope that if and when the class action suit thery're talking about, comes before a judge, he has enough sense to throw it out.


To the individual that "missed" when the opportunity presented itself with the media, keep up the good work!

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