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Reducing wildfire risk at regional parks in Central Okanagan – Okanagan

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With so much fuel load, parkland is fertile ground for wildfires.

That’s why the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) is focusing its efforts on fuel mitigation work at its regional parks.

“We take ‘FireSmarting’ within our park systems extremely seriously,” said Matt Hammond, the RDCO’s manager of park operations.

On Thursday, RDCO staff set up an information table at Kalamoir Park in West Kelowna to inform park users about the efforts underway to reduce the fire risk.

“That effort is a variety of works, ” Hammond said. “A lot of it is to clean up the forest fuel.”

In 2020, the RDCO conducted a FireSmart review of its 30 regional parks across the Central Okanagan to create a priority list of parks slated for fuel mitigation work.

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“2,100 hectares of parkland that we assessed and that brings it into a priority rating so that way we will know which parks and areas to treat first,” Hammond said.

Kalamoir Park was among the top on the list with work scheduled to start at the park in November.


Click to play video: 'Knox Mountain Wildfire classified as under control after sparking on Canada Day'


Knox Mountain Wildfire classified as under control after sparking on Canada Day


The work will involve reducing the fuel loads including getting rid of underbrush and deadwood, treating invasive species growth and pruning trees up to 2.5 metres off the ground.

“The hands-on work will typically start in November and then we have to wait for that venting window and that’s when you can burn those piles,” Hammond said.

Residents who live around the park support the efforts, including John Martin.

Martin lives in the nearby community of Casa Loma, which is made up of nearly 400 homes.

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“I think it offers everybody a little bit of comfort in knowing that at least they’re taking the initiative in order to lessen the fire issues within those park areas,” Martin told Global News.

The retired fire captain from Ontario visits the park daily and sees first hand the fire risk that exists within the 30-hectare park.

“Lots of fuel load; that’s why I’m glad to see RDCO taking on the initiatives to lessen that fuel load,” Martin said.

Mitigation work, however, isn’t cheap. This fall’s planned job in Kalamoir park alone is pegged at upwards of $50,000.

It’s money that usually comes in the form of  provincial government grants.

“The more the province can supply, the more initiatives can be taken by these organizations in order to lessen the fire load in all of our areas,” Hammond said.

The RDCO will start with the top priority parks and move down the list as more grants come in.

“We’re going to do our best to reduce any risk that’s possible in all of our parkland,” Hammond said. “That may be to do with fuel loading or public safety — that’s always been our priority is public safety.


Click to play video: 'Studying the social impacts of wildfire disasters'


Studying the social impacts of wildfire disasters


 

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