Swan Hills Fireguard Project To Start Soon

·2 min read

Work is set to commence soon on the Swan Hills Fireguard project. This project is being funded by the Community FireGuard Construction Program (CFCP) grant through the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA). FRIAA's provincial FireSmart program assists communities in managing and reducing their level of risk regarding wildfire. The CFCP program supports the FireSmart program by funding the construction of community fireguards to enhance public safety and improve the wildfire protections of at-risk communities. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry will be working with Blue Ridge Lumber and the Town of Swan Hills to complete this project.

The fireguard will be 50 – 100 meters wide and will surround the community of Swan Hills on all sides. All of the standing timber in this area will be removed as part of a vegetation management strategy to eliminate or at least reduce potential fuel for wildfires. While this strategy will not stop a wildfire on its own, it will slow the advance of a wildfire to give firefighters more time to attempt to get it under control as well as space to set up their operations.

Having a wide, open corridor will also help mitigate fires that have spread into the canopy of the trees, also known as crown fires. Crown fires are generally the most intense and present a unique danger. Under the right conditions, the fire's heat and embers can "jump" from treetop to treetop, allowing it to spread farther and faster. A fireguard 50 – 100 meters wide can help to prevent this type of spread, potentially turning a crown fire into a surface fire that is generally more manageable.

The fireguard project will build on existing disturbances to the surrounding forest (such as the fire road to the north of Swan Hills and the cemetery road to the northwest) in an effort to reduce the amount of timber that will need to be removed. Roughly 41 hectares will be cleared to build the fireguard.

If everything goes according to plan, logging activities to clear the fireguard of trees should be underway by the end of February and are expected to take about two weeks to complete. Currently, workers are finishing up the FireSmarting efforts that were initiated in the fall. Once this work has been completed, Blue Ridge Lumber will be able to begin logging along the fireguard. Once the trees have been removed from this area, the remaining debris will be mulched.

For more information on the fireguard project, please call Fire Chief Clint Baker at (780) 333-1272.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette