CITY COUNCIL AGREES TO "TEST BURN" IN MCKINLEY LANDING
KELOWNA - Forest fires are a touchy subject in the Okanagan so it was no surprise proponents of a controlled burn in McKinley Landing had some explaining to do to city councillors.
City staff want to conduct a controlled burn in McKinley Landing as part of a 10-year-old Wildfire Fuel Management program, which has already seen large amounts of forest floor fuel thinned out and removed from different parts of Kelowna.
While the the provincial government encourages prescribed burning as one solution to fuel build-up, Andrew Hunsberger, an urban forest health technician with the city, told councillors Kelowna prefers to use wood-chipping and composting where ever possible, even when it costs more money. But in certain areas, Hunsberger said, burning makes more sense.
“Controlled burning is cost effective for difficult to access sites, it improves forest health and it offers opportunities for training,” he said.
The issues with controlled burning, especially near urban areas, is air quality and the possibility of the fire escaping control.
Hunsberger said the burn would be subject to the same venting index requirements as other slash burns - it must be conducted on an approved burning day. As well, the burn would be licensed and supervised by the Kelowna Fire Department, which would also use the occasion to train staff in forest fire fighting.
The McKinley site is one of four identifed within city limits by City of Kelowna Parks Services and the fire department last year. The other three are Gallagher’s Canyon, Quail Ridge and Clifton Highlands.
Hunsberger described the McKinley site as a “test burn” of just three smaller piles of wood debris along the shores of Okanagan Lake. Staff will use leaf-blowers to accelerate the burns, making them burn hotter and cleaner.
The lessons learned there will be applied to a much larger controlled burn expected for Tower Ranch Mountain Park, where some 30 to 50 piles of wood debris await disposal.
Coun. Charlie Hodge, who suffers from emphysema, said he appreciated the efforts to minimize the effect on air quality. Hodge said he would support the motion for the McKinley burn but said he couldn’t say the same for the Tower Ranch, which has yet to come before council.
Council backed the controlled burn application unanimously.
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