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.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler has been conducting fuel thinning projects on Crown and municipal lands around the community since 2004 with the prupose of creating fuel breaks to reduce the impact of catastrophic wildfires.The primary goal of fuel thinning is to reduce forest fuel loads within the wild land urban interface to reduce the ability of fire to spread from the forest into the community and vice versa. Fuel thinning will be discountinued when the fire hazard goes to high or extreme. Work that is interrupted will resume when the fire hazard is lower.
Do not report smoke from fuel thinning projects.
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;
- Prunning 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—breaks in vegetation that target tight second growth, rather than old growth trees. Thinning stands within 50 m of each side of the road reduces fire growth and size for most combinations of wind speed and direction
With the exception of Kadenwood, fuel thinning has been completed. Pile burning is planned in several locations.Timing of the burning is dependent on weather and crew availability. When the burning is occuring please obey signs and crews. Smoke may be visible in these areas, but does not need to be reported:
- Whistler cemetery and Alpine Meadows –It is anticipated that pile burning will begin week of October 9. All access points and trails are open.
- Wedge - it is anticipated that pile burning will begin October 3.
- Callaghan forest service road – pile burning will begin October 2.
- Kadenwood road - trees are being removed from the site. Limited burning is planned.
- Cheakamus Lake road - Archaeological review is complete, permits and funding are in place, and work is expected to begin in fall 2018 and continue in 2019.
The RMOW has received funding for fuel thinning projects from the Union of BC Municipalities Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative to supplement the municipality’s budget to carry out the work.
Cheakamus Lake fuel treatment
The RMOW and Cheakamus Community Forest continued developing a fuel break along the gravel Callaghan Forest Service Road this year. Once complete, it will extend from near Highway 99 up to the RMOW boundary at the 5 km mark.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) will begin a project to thin 130 ha along either side of Cheakamus Lake Road this year.
- The goal is to thin 50 ha at the far end of the road this year, and to work toward the highway in 2019.
- 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 road will need to be closed periodically to allow for efficient and safe working conditions.
- Find details on the Cheakamus Lake Fuel Treatment Map.