2017 was a record-breaking year for wildfires in BC, only to have that record broken in 2018. The province of BC is bracing for another year of above average summer temperatures that create dry conditions ideal for forest fires. What BC farmers need to know about the 2019 wildfire season is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Farms are particularly at-risk due to their proximity to forests and the many fuel sources available on the average farm.
Wildfires are a natural part of some ecosystems; in BC’s boreal forests they play a critical role in natural cycle. Some tree species, such as the Jack Pine and Lodgepole Pine, have cones that only release their seeds when they are exposed to extreme heat. Grasslands benefit from wildfires managing the growth of trees and shrubs that would take over less dominant species. The problem is wildfires do not discriminate between a valuable crop and an uninhabited forest.
In 2018, BC saw more than 2100 wildfires burn a record-breaking 1.35 million hectares of land. Preliminary estimates show the 2018 wildfire season cost the province $615 million. It’s impossible to tell how bad it will be in 2019, but here are some tips to prepare yourself and your farm for the upcoming wildfire season.
Prepping your property to defend against a potential wildfire is key to protecting your crops and livestock. Working together with your neighbors increases your chances of minimizing or eliminating damage from a wildfire. Some farms are at a higher risk than other, those that border the Fraser Valley at the foot of the mountains for example. Creating a fire break (or fire line) between your property and a nearby fuel source is essential. A fire break can be 2-15 feet wide, it should be three times as wide as the height of the nearest surface vegetation. Fire breaks are where all vegetation and organic matter is removed down to the mineral soil, denying a fire of any combustible material. It can take the form of a road or just a path cut through the forest.
Either on one side or both sides of your fire break, your next line of defence is a fuel break. Fuel breaks are strips of land where dead branches, needles, old logs have been heavily reduced. A good fuel break should have only live mature trees and most or all of the ground vegetation cleared out. A fuel break combined with a fire break can starve the fire of fuel, forcing it to either take a different path or burn itself out.
To find out what else BC farmers need to know about the 2019 wildfire season, please click here to visit the BC government website on wildfire preparedness.
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