Wildfire season is a very sensitive time in B.C., last year’s devastation in Lytton had shown how quickly fire could engulf a whole community. In order to aid in the fight against wildfires, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) awarded close to $250,000 in funding to the Lower Nicola Indian Band (LNIB) for the removal of wildfire risks. The funding provides the opportunity for the Band to mitigate risks in both Lindley Creek and Fox Farm, two key areas near both Lower Nicola and Merritt.

“The application to FESBC was submitted in the name of the LNIB with the proposed areas of treatment identified,” said Don Gossoo, General Manager, Lower Nicola Indian Band Development Corporation (LNIBDC).

Lindley Creek is located south of the Nicola River, south of Lower Nicola; and Fox Farm is located on the north side of the Coquihalla highway just east of Merritt on Fox Farm Road.

“They were identified because of their proximity to communities,” said Gosso. “You don’t want to do it in the middle of nowhere, it is much more favourable if you can select these locations that are close to communities where there’s a potential for greater damage.”

Crews from Shulus Forest Enterprises Inc., a company owned 100 per cent by the LNIB, did all the manual treatments of these sites including tree pruning, spacing, falling, bucking, piling, and burning, covering about 20 hectares at Lindley Creek and 11 hectares at Fox Farm.

“Lindley Creek was chosen mostly because of its proximity to the homes which is a primary concern. The stand had a very thick and dense greenery, full of brush,” Gosso explained.

“Fox Farm was especially concerning because where we treated was in between the Coquihalla Highway and the Fox Farm homes which were just up the hill. In the event of a fire down at the Coquihalla, the fire would quickly move uphill towards those homes.”

The forested area below the Fox Farm community has been subject to wildfire suppression for over 60 years, resulting in a significant accumulation of dead and downed fuels.

“About 40 per cent of the trees were dead standing or lying on the ground ready to burn, creating a high fire hazard for a one-way in, one-way out community,” said Bruce Morrow, RPF, Bruce Morrow Forest Consulting Ltd.

Morrow submitted the application for funding to FESBC on behalf of LNIB.

“Spacing of trees to reduce crown closure, pruning to remove ladder fuels to reduce the risk of crown fires, and reducing the amount and continuity of ground fuels will all contribute to reducing wildfire risk, and allow wildfire crews to respond faster,” he said.

“We created a situation where, hopefully, a fire in the area will now move along the ground instead of through the crown. This will make it easier to fight and reduce the risk of structure loss from ember spotting onto the nearby houses from a crown fire.”

Gord Pratt, FESBC Operations Manager, highlighted the support of this work in addressing the high risk areas identified by Merritt’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan and the BC Wildfire Service.

“This is a multi-benefit proposal to the community, the forest, and the area as a whole,” said Pratt. “This project aligns with FESBC purposes, provides employment, and is exactly what we want to support in terms of rural communities working to implement wildfire risk reduction projects.”

Stu Jackson, Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band, said projects like this one have multiple benefits to the community.

“They provide employment opportunities, improve safety, and help support healthy forests. We look forward to more partnership opportunities like this which enhance communities overall.”

Similar work being done in the area on reserve land and adjacent Crown land is being funded through the Community Resiliency Investment Program and the Cascades Resource District.

The project also had the full support of the local Resource District and BC Wildfire Service. FESBC would like to gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests.