CONSIDERING FOREST MANAGEMENT Robert Gray believes wildfires in British Columbia will become more larger and more frequent unless changes are made to forest management. Photo submitted

Fire ecologist advocates prescribed burns

Change in forest management needed to reduce number and size of wildfires

Massive wildfires, evacuation orders and smoky skies are becoming regular facets of summer in the B.C. Interior and will continue to become more severe, a B.C. fire ecologist predicts.

Robert Gray, a Chilliwack-based fire ecologist with more than 30 years experience in fire science, believes conditions such as those seen in 2017 will become increasingly common — unless new forest management practices are adopted.

“We’re likely to see more of what we’ve seen in the last couple of years,” he said.

RELATED: Smoky skies bulletin issued for most of B.C.

Gray is the president of R.W. Gray Consulting Ltd. and works with forest management in the United States and Canada.

In 2017, the province experienced one of the worst fire seasons in its history. That year, more than 1.2 million hectares of land was burned and roughly 65,000 people were evacuated.

The cost of fire suppression efforts that year topped $568 million.

“A 1.2-million hectare fire season finally woke people up,” he said.

RELATED: Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire measured 1,370 hectares

Prior to 2017, the 2003 fire season was considered one of the worst in British Columbia’s history, with nearly 2,500 fires burning more than 265,000 hectares, and resulting in more than 30,000 people being evacuated.

While that fire season is still remembered as a destructive summer and fall, more recent fire seasons have had greater numbers of fires and a larger area of land burned.

“2003 was a blip compared to what we’ve seen over the last couple of years,” he said.

Gray has studied that fire season and co-authored the report, Firestorm 2003, after that season.

And in years to come, he predicts wildfire seasons could cause three to four times the damage as in the 2017 season.

However, he adds that it is possible to prevent this bleak, fire-charred future.

RELATED: Mount Eneas wildfire offering more smoke, remains under control

Gray suggests conducting prescribed burns in spring and fall to reduce the amount of fuel available for wildfires in the summer.

“Unfortunately that means putting smoke into the sky,” he added.

He also advocates other efforts to reduce the amount of dead wood, needs and other fuel sources on the forest floor.

RELATED: Fire near Naramata grows overnight

He says British Columbia’s First Nations people used to practice prescribed burns to manage the forests. And in the United States, a modified suppression system allows fires to burn if they are not putting people at risk.

In contrast, Canadian wildfire efforts, especially in British Columbia, are much more aggressive in an attempt to protect timber supplies by containing and extinguishing forest fires.

He believes the Canadian approach to fire suppression is a significant factor in the increasing size and number of wildfires today.

“We have about 20 years to turn things around,” he said.

Gray has been urging a change in forest management practices for years, but in recent years, the response has changed and provincial government officials are more receptive to his suggestion of prescribed burns.

Signature

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Hockey history in Surrey as Team India comes to play

Squad played its very first game in Canada on Tuesday against Surrey Falcons

Proposed coal project for Fraser Surrey Docks back in court

It could be months before the federal appeal court renders a decision

Minor injuries for firefighter struck outside South Surrey fire hall

Minor injuries for firefighter struck outside South Surrey fire hall

Surrey to hear news on Olympic softball qualifier bid next week

Decision, originally expected in September, was delayed by World Baseball Softball Confederation

Letters shed light on state of mind of mother accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey’s Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Disabled boy has ‘forgiven’ bullies who walked on him in stream, mom says

A Cape Breton teen who has cerebral palsy was told to lie in a stream as other kids walked over him

Vancouver man must pay $22,000 after breaking strata rules

Peter Gordon took his fight over his rented condo to the civil resolution tribunal, but lost

B.C. cheese linked to 5 E. coli cases

People are asked to throw out or return ‘Qualicum Spice’ cheese

Most Read