Letter to the editor: Action required on remote wildfire incidents

While major fire control efforts must necessarily be focused on protecting life and property, this should not preclude control action on more remote incidents.

When reviewing the information provided by the Wildfire Service, it is evident that a large number of wildfires are being classified as monitored or modified response. These classifications indicate that either no immediate control action is being considered or that “trigger points” must be reached prior to same.

As a result some wildfires that may have been controlled at an early stage develop into major incidents with associated losses to the forest land base, threat to communities and increased smoke accumulation (i.e. the Snowy Mt. wildfire near Keremeos, now 13,000 plus hectares).

Woodlot licenses, with their positioning in the forest land base and being area-based tenures, are particularly vulnerable to the aforementioned policy. Monitored or modified response is acceptable in the fall season when cooler weather prevails, but never during the summer period unless impossible terrain renders control action too hazardous for ground crews.

Helicopter bucketing or aerial tanker action on any wildfire is futile and fiscally irresponsible unless ground crew action is followed up as soon as practical.

It must be conceded that some wildfire incidents will develop rapidly into major occurrences, however it is evident that this is now too apparent considering the massive resources currently available.

If liaison with the forest industry community and other suitable agencies to initiate suppression action on accessible incidents is developed this will free up Wildfire Service crews for operations on more remote occurrences.

-George Benwell, former ranger-in-charge 1963-1979

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