Wildfire Fuel Management

Climate & Environment - Current Projects

March 20, 2024 update

As part of the implementation of the 2019 Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), the District is completing a second phase of wildfire fuel management in winter 2023/2024. Wildfire fuel management on a four-hectare section of second-growth forest in Ballantree Park that began in mid-November 2023 is now complete.

Parking restrictions have been removed from the end of Ballantree Road, and final cleanup and trail work is nearly complete. The park is expected to reopen to the public by Friday, March 22.

Wildfire fuel management involves reducing the amount of wildfire fuel by leaving mature and deciduous trees while removing underbrush and woody debris, pruning lower branches, and removing tightly spaced second-growth trees and dead trees.

Trees and brush removed during fuel management are chipped up for transport and recycling, and the first load of wood chips have been removed. The District will use the wood chips to mulch District gardens and streetbeds for weed suppression and to add nutrients and moisture.

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The CWPP is based on the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and contains 54 strategic recommendations for improving our emergency response and training, community education, FireSmart Practices, emergency communications, building practices, and more to make the District as fire safe as possible.

The CWPP is helping us prepare for, respond to, and recover from wildfires, particularly in areas where our community meets the forest. The Ballantree Park treatment area has been identified within in the CWPP as high risk for wildfires given its location within the wildland urban interface (WUI).

The District has consulted with local Indigenous communities for responsible forest work in the area.

About the wildland urban interface
The Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) is where the forest meets the community. Fire can spread from the forest into the community, or from the community into the forest. The CWPP identified specific areas of the WUI where the probability of wildfire is high and public safety, and many of the important facilities and structures could be severely impacted by a major fire. The Ballantree Park area is within the WUI, adjacent to many homes in the District. 

Evaluating the risk of fire
The CWPP identifies wildfire risks within and surrounding the District of West Vancouver. One of the CWPP’s key strategies to reduce fire risk in the community is fuel management in the wildland urban interface. Fuel management is considered a key element of wildfire risk reduction.

What are we doing?

Wildfire fuel management is the planned reduction of living and dead forest fuel vegetation to decrease the intensity and rate of spread of a wildfire. Within Canada, the practice of fuel management is becoming increasingly important as fire and land managers seek proactive ways to reduce the threat of wildfire to people, property, and natural resources.
Fuel management activities reduce surface fuels and create a buffer between the forest and the community. The buffer will slow the spread of a fire. Areas treated for fuel management will reduce wildfire risk in the community and provide benefits to other values such as wildlife.

Treatment strategy and vegetation management
The proposed treatment will modify stand structure to reduce potential surface and crown fire behaviour through tree removal, thinning from below, and surface fuel removal methods such as: 

  • Reducing tree stand density by removing tightly spaced coniferous trees and trimming limbs to reduce the fire load. to approximately 475 stems per hectare—i.e., removing dead, suppressed, and intermediate trees to reduce the risk of potential crown fire behaviour associated with high crown bulk density and fire laddering into crowns.
  • Removing excessive “ladder” fuels (small trees and brush that can help a fire spread from the ground to the tree canopy), and accumulations of dried branches, leaves, and other organic materials that easily catch fire.
  • Retaining dominant and co-dominant canopy trees to maintain a cool and moist understory microclimate.
  • Larger trees that are considered hazards to the workers or trail users will be modified to mitigate potential hazards. Wherever appropriate, the main stem may be retained to create a standing wildlife snag.
  • Logs greater than 12.5 cm in diameter are generally retained on site to help return nutrients to the soil and provide wildlife habitat.
  • Retaining live deciduous trees and shrub species with a high moisture content to reduce potential fire behaviour, maintain biodiversity and provide wildlife habitat.

Trees and brush removed during fuel management will be chipped up for efficient transport and taken to Net Zero Waste Eastgate where it will be mixed with nutrient-rich food waste and turned into a Class A compost or soil amender. This organic, environmentally-friendly compost soil, super rich in nutrients, will be used for growing food in the Okanogan Similkameen and Fraser Valley Regional districts.

How are we protecting the environment?

The proposed fuel management treatment will consider important resource features such as cultural and archeological values, wildlife values and recreation trails to ensure that fuel treatment activities do not negatively impact these elements of the forest that the West Vancouver community values.

The work is designed to be sensitive to the District’s upper lands forest ecosystem. Riparian areas will be flagged before fuel management activities start and monitored to limit disturbances as much as possible.

Where are the treatment areas?

The Phase 1 treatment area (Cypress) is a six-hectare linear treatment unit (i.e.,~600 m long by 150 m wide) located north of the BC Hydro right-of-way above a portion of the British properties and adjacent to the Brothers Creek and Trans-Canada Trails. The Phase 1 treatment was finished in spring 2023.

The Phase 2 treatment area (Ballantree) is a 4.2-hectare linear treatment unit (i.e.,~750 m long by 50-80 m wide) located between Ballantree and Kildonan Roads adjacent to residential properties in the northeast portion of the British Properties. 

Additional areas in the District requiring wildfire fuel management will be addressed on a priority basis, as the budget and funding allow. 

View map

What are the treatment objectives?

The objectives of this treatment unit are to:

  • To reduce the spread of wildfires from the forested area to the adjacent residential properties. 
  • To create an anchor point for firefighting and fire suppression efforts of a wildfire moving upslope away from homes into the Capilano watershed, or downslope from the watershed toward homes.
  • Reduce overall wildfire behaviour threat and ignition potential in the District.
  • Improve emergency egress for the public in Ballantree Park and on adjacent trails.
  • Minimize negative impacts to the stand, and, where possible, enhance the many values of the treated stand. Values include wildlife habitat, cultural values, water quality, forest health, air quality, and recreation.