Waskesiu makes early preparations for fire season

By Brady Bateman
January 12, 2019 - 10:53am

Parks Canada employees are getting an early start preparing for the fire season in Prince Albert National Park.

Dustin Guedo, an ecologist with Parks Canada, told paNOW several projects are underway to ensure the safety of residents and their properties in the Town of Waskesiu and the surrounding area.

“In Prince Albert National Park we take the threat of wildfire very seriously,” Guedo said. “We’ve been working on several projects called Wildfire Risk Reduction projects around the townsite and around our neighbouring communities in order to ensure we have some protection and tools to work with in the event of a wildfire.”

The current focus for Parks Canada is a FireSmart demonstration area, a four-hectare section of land in Waskesiu adjacent to the Waskesiu Golf Course.

“This demonstration area is going to feature fuel management strategies that are used under FireSmart principles to show how people in the community can protect their cabins or their businesses and buildings against wildfire using principles of clearing debris,” Guedo said. “We want to emphasize the need to continue wildfire risk reduction in the town site.”

These fire preparation measures come after the Rabbit Creek Wildfire, which occurred in the spring of 2018.

What started out as a controlled burn, quickly spread to almost 17,000 hectares, coming within 40 km of the townsite of Waskesiu.

“The Rabbit Creek Wildfire put the notion of being prepared for a wildfire right on our doorstep,” Guedo said.  “We’ve been looking at the threat of wildfire seriously over the last 20 years, which is why we developed the fuel break back in 2001. The purpose of this is first and foremost safety.”

The FireSmart demonstration area will feature three FireSmart priority zones to display fuel management strategies.

In the first zone, visitors will observe a fire-resistant zone, free of materials that could easily ignite from a wildfire. In the second zone, evergreen trees are thinned and pruned, and deadfall is cleaned up to reduce fire hazards. In the third zone, space is created between trees and other flammable vegetation.

Once the work on the FireSmart Demonstration Area is completed, the public will be able to see, read, and learn about FireSmart principles in the townsite of Waskesiu, and understand how they can apply the same principles to their properties.

“This work is something that is going to be ongoing,” Guedo said. “Definitely the initial phase is the big part, we can set a (completion) date on the initial work of cleaning areas up, but after that it’s going to be an annual event keeping these areas free of fuels and staying in FireSmart conditions.”

Crews are also continuing work in the East Boundary Fuel Break, and are currently collecting and burning brush piles in this area. The fuel break starts on Highway 264 and runs one kilometre north along the park boundary. The fuel break is a tactic used to help prevent the spread of wildfire to the neighbouring communities of Elk Ridge and McPhee Lake.

“If we work together we can make for a much safer community,” Guedo said. “This is an effort that requires participation from everyone. We encourage people to look at the FireSmart Canada website, and also to check the Prince Albert National Park webpage for information on what we’re doing in the park.”

 

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