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STAHN: Why we need more controlled burns in urban areas

March 06, 2015 - 7:42 AM

Let me start by stating a simple fact we all need to understand — fire is natural.

Not only is it natural, it is a much needed part of the ecological cycle. Regular fire is needed to keep noxious weeds at bay, to help encourage new growth and to keep wildfires from getting out of hand.

If all these wonderful benefits are true, you may feel the need to ask why we so rarely see them in our parks. If a fire does flare up, it is quickly put out and the deadfall and debris is often left to build up, sometimes for decades. Rare are the instances of controlled burns within city boundaries.

City staff, Indian Bands, regional districts and B.C. Wildfire are all working together to correct that, but they appear to have a long, uphill battle. For some reason, city dwellers resist the idea. We hear people decry the smoke in the air, the visibility issues and sometimes even the aesthetics of a burned out area.

Controlled burns are only done went venting is ideal, which means smoke and visibility are rarely issues, especially when you consider the other option, which is a large fire burning out of control. And while esthetically the burned area will remain black for part of the season, the grasses and plants often come back even fuller and greener than before, since they are not being choked back by weeds.

The experts tell us these controlled burns are necessary for the health of our parks and for our safety, so why do we continue to question this?

If you ask me a few days of controlled smoke is well worth making our parks healthier (have you seen the amount and height of the sage overtaking many of our grassland areas?) and reducing the risk of a major wildfire destroying our homes.

If you don’t believe me, or the experts, ask the people of Lytton or West Kelowna who were forced out of their homes because of wildfires in 2014. I’m sure many of them would trade the fear of losing their homes and all their belongings for a few days of fuel management and smoky skies in a heartbeat.

To contact a reporter, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infonews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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