One of the first areas treated as part of the Arrow Mountain Wildfire Risk Reduction Project. (Photo by Daniel Gratton)

One of the first areas treated as part of the Arrow Mountain Wildfire Risk Reduction Project. (Photo by Daniel Gratton)

Creston Community Forest reduces wildfire risk, provides employment to locals

To mark National Forestry Week, let’s celebrate the efforts of wildfire mitigation

When the heat of summer hits, many people worry of the potential threat of wildfire to communities, important infrastructure, and transportation corridors.

Taking proactive steps to mitigate the risk of wildfire can help better protect communities and bring a higher level of comfort to many, which is exactly what the Creston Community Forest (CCF) does.

With a grant of $670,000 from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) this summer, the CCF was able to target an area on Arrow Mountain, three kilometres north of Creston, to reduce the risk of wildfire to neighbouring communities.

“It was extremely important to have received funding from FESBC,” said Daniel Gratton, forest manager of the CCF. “We wouldn’t have done this amount of work and in such a short period of time without it. Quite honestly, it is something that was very important to us, so we are grateful.”

The area, also known to locals as Goat Mountain, is popular for hiking, off roading, and hunting.

The mitigation project treated over 120 hectares on the mountain by harvesting approximately 10,400 cubic metres of small bushes and shrubs (called the understory) to be piled up and burned.

“We were very thoughtful in our planning and in the treatment of the area,” said Gratton. “We opened the forested area up by taking out some of the unhealthy trees and we left a good number of trees behind.”

Mistletoe, infected larch, and unhealthy Douglas fir were removed in the process. The state of the forest is now closer to what would have existed in the early 1900s, prior to the introduction of the fire suppression programs.

“A lot of people don’t know it, but wildfires used to go through the Creston Valley and through the forests every 30 to 40 years,” said Gratton. “Many of the forests we see in our area today are not what they would have been 200 years ago because we’ve removed the occurrence of wildfires. What we are trying to do now is mimic what a wildfire would do, by cleaning up the understory, taking out some of the ladder fuels, and restoring the ecology of the area.”

The project also saw outstanding economic benefits to the community extending beyond wildfire protection, by creating a steady source of income for many locals.

“The funding from FESBC helped provide employment to at least 15 locals who were involved in the development and planning phase, and the implementation to facilitate the piling, chipping, slashing, and burning,” said Gratton.

Jim Macaulay of Macaulay Forestry Ltd. has worked in the Creston area for 27 years and was thrilled with the opportunity the project brought to his company.

“We have nine employees on the payroll right now and the project supplied us with nine to 10 months of full-time employment,” said Macaulay.

Macaulay’s crew was involved in completing the slashing, piling, and burning on the majority of the project site. and they even assisted the BC Wildfire Service, the Creston Fire Department, and the Creston Community Forest with two controlled burns.

“We all worked very well together,” said Macaulay. “The project got different parties working together and it was fantastic.”

Another contractor working on the project was Lance Huscroft of Northspar Holdings Ltd., who echoed similar sentiments.

“We’ve all appreciated being able to work so close to our homes to be close to our families,” said Huscroft, who has been logging in the area for 28 years. “We could get to town quickly for parts and then back to the job site should something break-down. In the process, we also supported local businesses for our service/parts needs and hired a local mechanic and trucking contractor. The majority of the timber was also shipped to the J.H. Huscroft sawmill in Creston.”

Creston Valleyforestry