A two-day conference focused on wildfire preparedness, management and recovery took place in Williams Lake this week.
“We have about 79 attendees from throughout the province who include community forest managers, provincial government staff and researchers,” said Stephanie Ewen, manager of the Alex Fraser Research Forest, the organization who hosted the conference in co-operation with the B.C. Community Forest Association.
Discussions focused on how community forests can be used as a beneficial resource to the BC Wildfire Service, to improve firefighting response and things that can be done to rehab forests more efficiently by working together in fireguard development and quick response to rehabilitation.
“This afternoon we are going to be getting into a new paradigm for silviculture and how to manage our forests for more a resilient state in light of all these wildfires we’ve been having,” Ewen said.
On Tuesday, a draft protocol agreement between the BC Wildfire Service, woodlot licences and community forest agreement holders was released at the conference.
“It’s a formal document that outlines the communication line between all of those to ensure that within our area-based tenures we have more influence on how fires are fought and the BC Wildfire Service has access to some of our resources as well,” Ewen said.
BC Community Forest Association executive director Jennifer Gunter said community forests are very motivated to be engaged in wildfire management and mitigation trying to protect their communities and also manage forests in a way that brings back resiliency.
“We want to lay out a framework that community forests and woodlots can use in communication with the fire centre staff in their zone,” Gunter said. “It’s based on the four pillars of wildfire management and includes information on prevention, planning and preparedness, response and rehabilitation.”
Gunter said while the protocol agreement is something new, several community forests and woodlot managers would already have good relationships with their local BC Wildfire Service representatives.
“This provides a structure for everybody to use and identify roles and responsibilities so they can really be prepared and respond to fire more effectively and recover from fire more efficiently.”
Graduate students in attendance have been taking notes during the presentations, Ewen said.
“We’ve had short presentations followed by long discussions so we can get some knowledge exchange and questions answered so our grad students are gathering information that we will be able to put together afterwards in a more polished document,” she added.