Whistler is surrounded by forest and is at risk for wildfires. Wildfire fuel reduction (reducing the amount of highly combustible organic matter such as trees and woody debris) is one component of Whistler’s Wildfire Protection Strategy and includes techniques such as fuel thinning and fire breaks.
Fuel thinning in Whistler
The Resort Municipality of Whistler has been conducting wildfire fuel thinning projects on Crown and municipal lands since 2004 to reduce the risk of wildfire to our community. The primary goal of fuel thinning is to reduce forest fuel loads within the wildland-urban interface to reduce the ability of fire to spread from the forest into the community and vice versa, and to make wildfires easier to fight. Fuel thinning will be discontinued when the fire hazard goes to high or extreme and will resume when the fire hazard is lower.
Sometimes projects need to burn some of the wood debris. We will alert the public through social media. There is no need to report smoke from fuel thinning projects.
The RMOW Wildfire Program 2019-2027 was prepared in summer 2019 to identify priority areas for fuel thinning treatment in the Wildland Urban Interface near neighbourhoods.
Fuel thinning process and goals
Fuel thinning focuses on leaving mature and deciduous trees, while removing ground brush and debris, pruning lower branches, and removing tight second growth trees. This is accomplished by:
- Reducing the number of trees in the stand;
- Focusing on removal of small diameter trees and retaining fire-resistant species such as Douglas-fir and deciduous trees;
- Reduce fine woody surface debris, while retaining larger coarse woody debris for habitat and soil productivity;
- Pruning trees to reduce ladder fuels between the ground and the forest crown; and
- Removing dangerous trees to protect workers, while maintaining high value wildlife trees where possible.
In addition to reducing forest fuel loads, secondary objectives of fuel thinning projects are to protect critical infrastructure and facilities in Whistler, restore open forest conditions and demonstrate the principles and practices of the FireSmart program.
The RMOW completed a study in 2012 to identify where landscape level fuel breaks should be created along forest service roads around Whistler. The focus is on reducing tree densities in tight second growth, rather than removing old growth trees although sometimes that is necessary. Thinning stands within 100 - 200 m of each side of the road reduces the fuel available to feed fire growth and creates safer, defensible areas for firefighting crews to work in.
- High school fuel thinning (all tree thinning completed, pile burning in spring 2022)
- Taluswood neighborhood fuel thinning (5 hectares completed, tree thinning on remaining hectares resumes in spring 2022)
- Rainbow neighborhood fuel thinning (on hold)
The RMOW Wildfire Program 2019-2027 plan identifies the remaining priority areas to treat.