Council applies for funding to lower wildfire risk

The Sun Peaks Municipal council has applied for a grant to fund a program that would lower the risk of wildfires to the community.

The council applied for a $100,000 grant under the Union of B.C. Municipalities Operational Fuel Treatment Program for 2011. Under this program, any approved annual grants up to $100,000 will be 90 per cent funded by UBCM and 10 per cent funded by the municipality.

If approved, the amount will be used to treat approximately 25 hectares of land using the existing Strategic Wildfire Plan initiated by Sun Peaks Resort Corporation and the defunct Sun Peaks Improvement District. The work will entail hand piling debris, pruning and cleaning up the forest floor. Fuel treatment work was recently completed in Whitecroft and the council hopes to continue the work all the way to Sun Peaks.

“There’s four sites that we want to treat in the next couple of years, but the ones to the west (of Sun Peaks) are the most important,” said Bruce Morrow, a registered professional forester. Wind blows toward the community from this direction, and is most likely the entry point for a forest fire.

Morrow, who developed the community wildfire plan, said reducing the amount of combustible material in the forests will prevent fires from reaching the community or minimize the intensity of fire that does reach it.

The amount of dead trees to the north and east of Sun Peaks that are not being logged is cause for concern. “The forecast for fires is supposed to be more aggressive, more serious,” said Morrow. “Coupled with a lot of dead trees from the spruce beetle, they’ve got some serious fire challenges around Sun Peaks.”

The completion of the Strategic Wildfire Plan will also provide a safer escape route in case of a wildfire.

“There’s really one safe exit from Sun Peaks and that’s down towards Whitecroft,” said Morrow. “You can go out to McGillivray, but you don’t want to send a bunch of tourists in a rental car out to McGillivray a fire situation.”

“It’s a tough situation because the access is so poor. It increases the risk of people getting injured in a fire.”

The Sun Peaks council hopes to hear back from UBCM sometime in September.

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