With the region’s commitment to becoming fire smart, Powell River fire chief Terry Peters is concerned some property owners are allowing wood to accumulate on their lands, in contravention of the FireSmart initiative.
“I’ve seen a raft of problems in the community that we are addressing right now, where we have contractors having gone onto properties and removed trees and then piled up the stumps, for example, and leaving them there to dry,” said Peters. “In some instances, unfortunately, they have been pushed up against the forest edge. There are some large properties and private lots where that has happened.”
Peters said the city’s fire prevention bylaw indicates that if people are going to be removing trees from a property, over a hectare, they need to consult with the city’s planning department about doing that. He said consultation with the fire department is also important in terms of what people are going to do to mitigate risks on their properties where trees have been cleared.
“We’ve seen a few and we are actually addressing that right now,” said Peters. “We’ve had a few properties in town where people have removed the trees and pushed the stumps up against properties or even used it as a natural barrier up against other areas.
“What I want to get out to people is just because you are removing trees from the property, you actually have to clean up as well. Our fire prevention bylaw addresses that.”
Peters said burning is not an option. There is a city burning bylaw that is specific, but does not include slash piles. Burning can occur within city boundaries with a permit in April and November, but fires can only be one metre square.
“It’s not for land clearing,” said Peters.
If the fire department sees some risks, it wants to address them, because Powell River is a FireSmart community. Efforts are underway region-wide to ensure wildfire safety is followed.
Peters said in instances of accumulations of wood from land clearing, the fire department is trying to get people to clean up the hazards.
BC forest service shares Peters’ concerns, he said, and the agencies are working together to protect the community.
“We need the public to buy into that and be fire smart in the process; that includes contractors and developers,” said Peters. “The bottom line is before you actually do anything, you need to be due diligent in the process of what you are doing, following the city’s bylaws in relation to that.”
There are costs associated but that is the cost of doing business, said Peters.
“If we have people not dealing with their property it’s not very fair to the community, taking profit over safety,” he added.
Peters said the fire department, when it becomes aware of wood hazards, will go and talk to the property owner to try and get them to comply with the regulations. If that is not successful, there are other steps that can be taken, which could potentially come with fines, and the cost of cleanup could be borne by the owners of the property.
“We want compliance and we are always working with people to make sure we have compliance,” said Peters.
Adding fire loads to neighbourhoods is just not acceptable, according to the fire chief.