Whistler is surrounded by forest and as a result is at risk for wildfires. Fuel reduction is one component of Whistler’s Wildfire Protection Strategy.
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.
Wildfire program work completed in the following areas in 2020:
- Cheakamus Lake Road - Phase 3 to commence on November 30, 2020.
- Cheakamus Lake Road - Phase 2 (C03) - work was completed on approximately 34 hectares by the Cheakamus Community Forest.
- Spruce Grove/Lost Lake Park - Sixteen hectares were completed along the western edge of Lost Lake Park from the Scandinave Spa to the PassivHaus.
- Nesters Hill - Two hectares completed in late summer 2020 to be followed by further work in 2021.
- The RMOW Wildfire Program 2019-2027 plan identifies the remaining priority areas to treat.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) continued wildfire prevention work through August and September on Nesters Hill, one of the priority areas identified in the RMOW Wildfire Program 2019-2027. Two hectares were treated on the east side of Nesters Hill adjacent to the RMOW Public Works Yard and Rainbow substation. The 2020 work is complete and all trails are open. Further fuel thinning on Nesters Hill will take place in 2021. More information will be shared early in the year.
Cheakamus Lake Road Fuel Treatment
In 2018, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) began year one of a three year project to thin a total of 113 ha along either side of Cheakamus Lake Road. To allow for efficient and safe working conditions it is necessary to close the road to all public traffic including access by skiers from the south side of Whistler Mountain. Please obey all signs and workers.
In addition, the RMOW and CCF are working with WORCA to ensure trails in the area are taken into consideration, and with BC Parks to reduce disruption to the Cheakamus Lake Trail parking lot.
The CCF completed Phase 2 in spring 2020 and will begin thinning work on 15-16 hectares closer to the start of the Cheakamus Lake Road in November 2021.
- The Cheakamus Community Forest Manager has closed AM/PM, Farside and the MacLaurin's Crossing bridge until the project is finished in late February 2021. Please note that the crews will be off from December 19, 2020 and back on January 4, 2021 during which time the trails and bridge will be open, the road will remain closed. Please avoid the area while work is underway.
- The RMOW and Cheakamus Community Forest are working together on the project.
- Fuel thinning along the rest of the road resumed December 10, 2019 and was completed spring 2020.
- Find details on the Cheakamus Lake Fuel Treatment Map.
Spruce Grove/Lost Lake Park Fuel Thinning Project (Completed)
The RMOW is continuing wildfire fuel management in the Wildland Urban Interace (WUI) areas. Fuel thinning work above the Spruce Grove and White Gold neighborhoods along the western boundary of Lost Lake Park resumed April 30 and was completed July 25. Wildfire crews treated 13.5 hectares in this area in 2020 in addition to the 8 hectares treated in autumn 2019..
Rainbow Neighbourhood Fuel Thinning Project - ON HOLD
This project within the Cheakamus Community Forest is on hold until the necessary external funding is secured.
The RMOW is partnering with the Cheakamus Community Forest to do the work, and is coordinating with WORCA regarding the trails in the area.