Removing material along the Buck Flats Road to reduce the chances of a wildfire threat against the community is going to take place thanks to a $1 million grant received by the District of Houston.
The project is to be managed by Protech Forest Services and it will also provide consulting services over the course of the project.
“The current timeline projects a completion date in 2020, although this is subject to several conditions being met,” said District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck.
Exactly how much material will be removed will be determined as the project scope takes place.
The District applied for the money from the provincial agency Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. late last year through a program dedicated to reducing wildfire risk.
In this project, approximately a 1 kilometre area will be cleared between the Buck Flats Road and the Morice River.
Fuel mitigation and treatment of high risk areas are outlined in Houston’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which was adopted by council in April 2018.
According to the plan, the Houston area could see an increase in the high/extreme fire danger days in the coming years due to climate change, which is creating drier forest conditions, a shift in vegetation and changes in weather patterns.
According to data collected from 1980 to 2017 at Dungate, Houston’s closest weather station, the Houston area has seen an average of 37 days of “high” fire danger rating per year, and about 10 days of “extreme” rating. Although 10 days may not seem concerning, the report notes that extreme fire behaviour can also be present when the rating is “high.”
Some Houston area residences would be at higher risk due to their location adjacent to surrounding forest. These include the areas near Lund Road, Dungate Estates, Buck Flats Road, Cantor and North Road.
The project money came from a financial boost provided by the province to the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. and Houston’s application was one of 40 wildfire risk reduction projects to divide $19 million.
Thirty-six of the 40 approved projects are for fuel management projects that will directly reduce wildfire risk within two kilometres of a community.
The provincial government began spending more money on reducing wildfire risks to communities after a 2018 review of both wildfire and flood risks conduced by former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott and Chief Maureen Chapman of the Skawahlook First Nation in the Upper Fraser Valley region determined not enough was being done.
(With files from Flavio Nienow)