The City of Williams Lake will be looking at taking the lead when it comes to a Williams Lake and Area Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
Senior regional manager with the Fraser Basin Council, Mike Simpson says they had a second open house Tuesday afternoon in which approximately 50 people attended before presenting it to Council at a committee of whole council meeting.
“We had one at the end of May with a number of local governments, the Williams Lake Indian Band, Xatsull First Nation, and forest industry, and we took that input and we worked on the plan and did a lot of technical analysis on what sort of fuel risks there are around the community so we presented that plan,” he said.
“I was really pleased with the turnout that we had. We had a few constructive comments, but for the most part, I think people were happy with what was being proposed, and Council was happy with it as well.”
Councillor Scott Nelson made the recommendation which received unanimous support to endorse the plan.
“It was a great report that came down and we want to take the lead on it to ensure that the recommendations contained within that report protect our communities by simply putting in a place a number of initiatives that will help fireproof our communities,” he said.
“It is paramount for moving forward in 2019.”
Nelson also made the recommendation that Council determines available funding for a dedicated consultant to assist in implementing the plan so it does not sit on the shelf.
“They would overwatch the implementation because what we want to take and do with this report is to ensure that this initiative actually gets done and it has a lot of capacity driven partnerships in with our neighboring communities. So what we will look to do is to seek grants out to put a secretarial position to oversee the implementation of this project,” Nelson said.
“The funds are there so it’s a matter of essentially participating and getting it in place.”
The Williams Lake and Area Community Wildfire Protection Plan was authored by Simpson and forester Ken Day with Steve Capling providing technical expertise and Lisa McCargar completing the maps and analysis. Erin Robinson with the Fraser Basin Council also provided overall direction and coordination.
“To implement a community wildfire protection plan it requires collaboration between the City, the Cariboo Regional district, WLIB, Xatsull First Nation, forest licensees, and members of the public because one-third of the area is private land,” Simpson said.
BC Wildfire Service will conduct a technical review of the plan and Simpson said based on some of the input received at Tuesday’s open house they will have to make a couple of tweaks.
“I think by early in the New year we’ll want to go forward, and it sounds like Council wanted to get together and make sure that the CRD, Xatsull, and the WLIB are on all board and go to governments and the funding sources and say how do we implement this, and we’re looking for your support; we’ve got a plan together and we’d like to get it done.”
Simpson adds that about 13 percent of the area in the plan is covered by woodlot licensees and that the Woodlot Association is applying for funding to implement fuel treatments in their key areas.
“The Williams Lake Community Forest, Tolko, and others are actually already working on some of the areas in terms of both salvaging the timber that was burned in 2017 and working immediately to the west of Williams Lake to the Fraser River where there is a block of the community forest.”