LOGAN LAKE, B.C. — A crew of eight youth is busy cutting down branches and clearing debris from the heavily forested area surrounding Logan Lake.
It's all in an effort to lower the risk of fire in the small community.
"Let's face it, you look around here and you see the piles here, all of that is fuel if a wildfire came through. It's going to come into our community," said Logan Lake Fire Chief Dan Leighton.
Following the intense wildfires near Barriere and Kelowna in 2003 the mayor and council of Logan Lake at the time decided to take action to protect their community.
"They met up with a teacher at the high school at the time, he was a forester and wanted to start a forest program," Leighton said. "The first initiative was to engage the kids in the activities. And of course, with the trouble with a small grass fire one year, the same year, they decided they'd start to help out in the forest and thin some property."
Later, the Logan Lake Community Forest took over the program, which receives funding through the province's Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative.
The youth apply for the summer student job through the local Wellness, Health, and Youth (WHY) program.
"What we're looking for is locals from the Logan Lake area, then we try to encourage them to do their best through the summer, and we'll teach them a few things along the way," said Garnet Mierau, a registered professional forester on the management team of the Logan Lake Community Forest.
The workers learn to responsibly manage the forest, protecting wildlife and their habitats while they prune, space, and pile fuel to mitigate the wildfire risk.
"Without treatment we have all kinds of ladder fuels," Mierau said, "these are the fuels that grow along the bowls of the trees where a fire can lick up from the grass and go up into the crown of the trees, and once you have a crown fire it can race along the crowns and we can't, as foresters and fire fighters, we can't actually fight those fires directly. We have to go from the sides. What we do is we actually change the fire behaviour. We move it from the crown and we drop it to the ground."
The piles of fuel will be burned off in the fall and winter when it's safe to do so.
Logan Lake was the first community in the province to implement the wildfire mitigation program, and has seen the success of its efforts. A wildfire ignited in previously mitigated forest last summer - but was unable to climb to the crowns of the trees.
"It does work," Leighton said. "It's just a matter of communities taking initiatives to jump on board and have it happen."
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