Training, planning key to successful fire rehabilitation
VICTORIA – Timely rehabilitation of forest sites damaged by firefighting efforts depends on well-trained staff, effective coordination and advance planning, according to a Forest Practices Board report released today.
The interim special investigation report examined all fires larger than 250 hectares in the Southeast, Cariboo, and Kamloops fire centre areas, between 2000 and 2003. The report focuses on repairing damages resulting from fire suppression activities, rather than damages from the fire itself. Current legislation only requires damages resulting from fire suppression activities to be repaired by government staff.
The goal of the report is to verify whether government agencies are preparing rehabilitation plans, implementing those plans on the ground, and whether treatments are effective in controlling water and erosion damage. The interim report covers the plan preparation component; the other two aspects will be examined in the final report scheduled for release in fall 2004.
“In most cases, Ministry of Forests staff are preparing and submitting fire rehabilitation plans within the required deadlines, with late submissions in 2003 due to the unprecedented fire season last year,” said board chair Bruce Fraser. “Effective fire rehabilitation is a complex challenge that requires cooperation with many sectors outside government, including First Nations communities and local residents in fire areas.
“This work takes time and must not be rushed in order to meet an arbitrary deadline. The board believes that the current legal obligation to submit a plan within 10 days of the fire being suppressed should be reviewed.”
The report identifies several key issues and challenges with respect to fire rehabilitation: managing public expectations that all damage from the fire itself will be repaired, even though this is not legally required; ensuring training is offered at all levels; gaining knowledge of sensitive environmental and cultural values in the fire area, and coordinating salvage activities with rehabilitation in order to reduce costs after the fire has been suppressed.
The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog that reports to the public about compliance with the Forest Practices Code and the achievement of its intent. The board’s mandate has been retained under the new Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). The board’s main roles under FRPA are:
- Auditing forest practices of government and licence holders on public lands.
- Auditing government enforcement of FRPA.
- Investigating public complaints.
- Undertaking special investigations of forestry issues.
- Participating in administrative appeals.
- Providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.
Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250 356-1586 / 1 800 994-5899
June 23, 2004