Lake Country staff work to mitigate wildfire risk in Okanagan Centre

Staff have been removing forest fuels and some trees

The District of Lake Country is working in Okanagan Centre’s Jack Seaton Park in order to mitigate the risk of wildfire.

Following the devastating Nighthawk Road wildfire in 2017, the Lake Country parks crew is removing some of the trees at Jack Seaton Park and performing wildfire mitigation tasks such as cleaning up forest fuels.

Shaun Lesowski, parks superintendent with the district, said they aren’t removing all the trees, as they play a crucial role to wildlife in the area, but some trees are being removed that may be hazardous for people and cleaning up forest fuels.

READ MORE: A year after the Okanagan Centre wildfire, Lake Country residents return home

“Basically what we’re doing is picking up fuels from ground and chipping and removing combusting materials,” he said.

These trees have been turned into two benches that will sit in the park, at a much cheaper cost than constructing concentrate benches, Lesowski said. The bolts cost less than $25 and a few hours of work to put them together.

The district plans to make more benches once the weather is nicer.

He estimates it will take the district another five or so years to completely finish the work at the park, and they plan to plant trees and shrubs that are native to the area.

“That park is a crucial piece of wildlife habitat inside of our community, so we’re keeping up with that as much as we can,” he said.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Okanagan Centre residents return to the scene of the fire

Matt Vader, manager of strategic and support services, said the district is also putting together an overarching wildfire mitigation plan, with the expectation that it will be presented to council in April.

Coming from last year’s budget request, he said the plan will provide information to property owners on how to mitigate the risk of wildlife.

He used the example of if a homeowner is replacing their roof, they may want to avoid cedar shingles.

The district has applied for two grants from the province, the status of which is currently unknown, Vader said.

Lake Country applied for up to $100,000 from the Community Resiliency Investment program, which is a new provincial program intended to reduce the risk of wildfires in communities across B.C. in December.

The district is also seeking another grant worth $20,000 from Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia in order to focus on wildfire risk reduction in the Beaver Lake and Oyama Lake Watersheds.

READ MORE: Lake Country applies for $100,000 to mitigate wildfire risk

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