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PHOTOS: Bond Lake prescribed burn near Williams Lake

Putting fire back on the land to help with forest health

Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) led a successful prescribed burn in the Bond Lake area on Sept. 22, 2022. It will not be the last.

“It went fairly smooth,” said John Walker, stewardship forester with Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN), adding there had been firefighters on site since they started the burn.

Initially, there were about 35 personnel on site from the Cariboo Fire Centre, Alkali Resource Management (A.R.M.) and WLFN’s Borland Creek Logging.

Once the main ignition was completed and the fire had died down, the Cariboo Fire Centre personnel left the mop up and patrol of the fire to the rest of the firefighters.

Around 16 firefighters were still on the fire extinguishing the perimeter on Monday, Sept. 26.

Walker said crews would continue to work their way around the perimeter and then continue into the rest of the fire to put it out. He added an expression of gratitude for the community’s patience with the smoke, as these small burns are meant to prevent much worse smoke and fire hazard if the area were to experience an out-of -control wildfire.

WLFN was leading the burn, which resulted in their highest priority area being burnt to clear the finer fuels and remaining underbrush after mechanical and hand clearing had prepared the area.

Walker said they broke up the one 140-hectare area they would like to be able to burn into 40 to 45 hectare zones and the ones nearest homes were highest priority to reduce wildfire risk as a part of the ecosystem restoration project.

The smoke from the fire was highly visible from downtown Williams Lake on Thursday last week, but during the day it was being pushed away from the community.

As the air cooled and winds changed to downslope, the smoke did come down towards the South Lakeside area. By Friday, Sept. 23, light rains cleared the air somewhat.

Walker said they are hoping for two consecutive days of venting for future burns to avoid this issue.

For this year, the weather window for burning is closing and while he would like to see the next priority zone burnt as well, it may not happen until next year.

So far the project has taken two years to get to this point, which is really fast, according to Peter Holub with the BC Wildfire Service, adding it shows how successful the collaboration has been between WLFN, Ministry of Forests and BC Wildfire Service.

The burn also drew in fire crews from Alkali Resource Management as well to help gain experience and manage the fire.

Funding for the project came from the province’s Ministry of Forests and is aimed at longer-term savings.

While costs for fuel management can normally be as much as $5,500-6,000 a hectare, with the approach they are using to integrate fire to help clear the finer fuels and more greatly reduce fire hazard, these costs are reduced to as low as $2,000 per hectare.

Once a more natural cycle of burning can occur, the cost of removing the fuels from these areas near communities should theoretically be even lower in the future.

Read more: Williams Lake First Nation planning controlled burn for Bond Lake area starting in Sept.

Read more: Prescribed burning underway in Williams Lake

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