Two wildfire mitigation projects are underway on Gabriola Island.
First, the Regional District of Nanaimo is developing a fuel management prescription for the 707 Community Park.
“It’s a literal prescription that’s a bit more binding than a recommendation,” Kaitlin Fader, special projects coordinator for emergency services, told the parks and open spaces committee at their May 24 meeting.
The 707 was chosen as a fuel management prescription area as it faces an ignition risk due to its popularity for recreational activities and past instances of camping from people experiencing homelessness, Fader said. Currently there is a temporary ban on overnight homeless camping in the 707.
In collaboration with Diamond Head Consulting, the RDN is currently collecting information to understand the recreational uses as well as the types of vegetation and potential fuel in the park. The prescription, written by a registered professional forester, will identify treatment or management practices to undergo to mitigate fire risk.
Concurrently, the RDN is developing community wildfire resiliency plans (CWRPs) for all seven electoral areas.
CWRPs assess wildfire risk in an area through a forestry lens and gauge community interest in wildfire mitigation, Fader said. A plan for Gabriola was last completed in 2008, then called a community wildfire protection plan.
The plans will be developed through the lens of the FireSmart program’s seven disciplines: education, vegetation management, legislation and planning, development considerations, interagency cooperation, cross-training firefighters and emergency planning.
Community engagement is expected to begin in June via the getinvolved.rdn.ca platform.
“A large part of wildfire resiliency, even without doing a fuel management or actually cutting a tree, or removing brush or doing a prescribed burn, is actually understanding the community’s interest and their level of education on wildfire mitigation,” Fader said. “We need to understand how the  is used and what people’s concerns are in the park.”
First drafts of the 707 prescription and the CWRP, which will be reviewed by a number of stakeholders including the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department, is expected to be released in December. The GVFD has done some “pre-fire planning” in the park, said Fire Chief Will Sprogis, and works with Coastal Forest Service to keep main roads accessible to fire trucks. A helicopter pad has been identified as well as a water pumping area to pull water from in the summer.
The RDN announced in February it received a $384,960 grant from the B.C. government, which will go toward development of fuel management prescriptions for the 707 and the RDN Arboretum property near Duke Point as well as all seven CWRPs.
Currently there is no funding established for operational fuel management following the outcomes of the 707 prescription and CWRP. Funding would come from the Area B parks budget, Vanessa Craig, Electoral Area B director, said.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder