Land impacted by wildfire near Burns Lake rehabilitated

Province partners with Lake Babine Nation to conduct work

  • Jan. 15, 2020 12:00 a.m.

The Torkelsen fire, which was sparked by lightning on Aug. 4, 2018, originated 25 kilometres south of Fort Babine, a Lake Babine Nation community. (B.C. Wildfire Service photo)

The majority of rehabilitation projects planned for northern B.C. due to the 2018 wildfires — the worst wildfire season on record — have been completed, according to the provincial government.

Of the 14 planned rehabilitation projects in the Northwest Fire Zone, 10 have been concluded. The province has been collaborating with impacted local governments and First Nations to conduct this work.

The most recent site is the land impacted by the suppression of the Torkelsen fire, which originated 25 kilometres south of Fort Babine, a Lake Babine Nation community. The fire was sparked by lightning on Aug. 4, eventually burning 2,524 hectares.

Approximately 90 km of fireguards, which were built along the fire’s perimeter to help the BC Wildfire Service contain the blaze, required rehabilitation. These fireguards crossed 96 streams, mostly on the east side of the wildfire’s site, according to the province.

The rehabilitation project — a collaboration between the provincial government and Lake Babine Nation — included removing woody debris from streams, moving vegetation that was cleared from fireguard areas back into those areas, sowing grass seed to help prevent soil erosion, and managing water flows on the landscape.

Previous unauthorized access along the lakeshore has also been rehabilitated and an alternative route is being planned.

People from Fort Babine and Witset, a Wet’suwet’en village, were hired to complete the rehabilitation work using heavy equipment, according to the province. A registered professional biologist was also hired to provide detailed plans to rehabilitate crossings and minimize impacts on fish populations while the work was being done.

Now that all the stream restoration work is complete, signs will be installed to advise people that all-terrain vehicles should not be used in those areas to help protect fish habitat, according to the province.

The remaining four planned rehabilitation projects in the Northwest Fire Zone — at the sites of the Nadina, Hautete, Cheslatta and Nichyeskwa wildfires — are expected to be completed in 2020.

British Columbia experienced the worst fire season on record in 2018, with more than 2,000 fires and 1.35 million hectares burned. The Northwest Fire Centre had the most burned land at over 800,000 hectares.

READ MORE: Latest numbers confirm 2018 was B.C.’s worst wildfire season on record

Massive wildfires raged simultaneously in the Burns Lake region while several evacuation orders and alerts were in effect.

READ MORE: Wildfire season in Burns Lake a “rollercoaster of emotions”

The B.C. wildfires accounted for 60 per cent of the total burned area in Canada in 2018, with over $615 million spent on fire management and suppression operations.

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