Groundtruthing

The updated Cortes Island Wildfire protection plan

Cortes Island‘s updated Community Wildfire Protection Plan will be completed mid-April.

Photo credit: Previous wildfires, depicted in the old Cortes Island Community Wildfire Protection plan

The updated Wildfire protection plan

The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) will also be holding two virtual sessions with wildfire expert Bruce Blackwell on Tuesday April 13 and Wednesday April 14 from 7-8pm (both sessions will be the same). These sessions will be devoted to the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, the island’s wildfire risk, and on ways that you can incorporate FireSmart principles on your properties and neighbourhoods. There will also be a question and answer period.  

Bruce Blackwell giving a FireSmart Workshop on Bowen Island

So I asked SRD Protective Services Coordinator Shaun Koopman, Is there anything new?

“Ahhh, I wouldn’t say so – but I spend every sing day in this area. 

If a Cortes Islander reviewed the ten year old plan and hasn’t engaged in any wildfire planning, things might look a little different, but I am going to wait for the engagement session because I don’t want to take away from the consultant,” he responded.   

One of the key elements will be looking at the old wildfire map:

  • What changes have there been?
  • What are the most hazardous areas on both private and public land?
  • What are the areas most in need of treatment?  

What does treatment consist of?

The first step in a treatment consists of drawing up a ‘prescription.’  This identifies specific trees that must be taken out and potential fuel areas for a wildfire. It is also the document that will be presented to the SRD Board, when applying for funding.   

Several areas on Cortes Island have already been identified for treatment: 

The SRD also wants to reduce the risk of wildfire to community buildings.

  • Replacing some of the siding with non-flammable material, 
  • making sure there is a six centimetre non flammable buffer between the ground and the start oif the building. 
  • replacing some of the gutters
  • replacing wooden stairs with metal stairs
Cortes Island Wildfire Protection Plan
Wildfires on Cortes Island 1950-2008 – from the old Cortes Island Wildfire Protection Plan

How do wildfires spread?

“You have to think, how do wildfires spread? Let’s say lightning strikes in Squirrel Cove, how does that spread to houses? The wind catches embers, the embers land on a property and anything on that property could be a potential fuel source for that ember,” said Koopman.

“Does it land on treated cedar gutters that are full of leafs?  Or does it land in a fully clean metal gutter? One is a way better fuel source for that ember than the other.”

Buildings are also a fuel source for wildfires. 

Special thanks to Doug Hamel

Koopman gave a special thanks to Doug Hamel, who provided a cost estimate for all of Cortes Island’s community buildings. 

“I couldn’t have put this grant together without him. You can’t just go to the Union of BC Municipalities and say we want a metal roof for this building, we have to provide a couple of quotes and an approximate estimate of labour/days etc … Because it is an economic recovery grant, one of the questions was how much labour will these projects generate? We were actually able to quantify that.” 

Links of Interest:

Top photo credit: Examining the forest by waferboard via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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