What are the barriers and complexity to increasing the area treated by prescribed fire?

A Tree Frog Editorial

By Bruce Blackwell, RPF, Principal, B.A. Blackwell and Associates
August 3, 2021

VANCOUVER, BC — Very early on during this current fire season, and following the Lytton wildfire, there have been numerous calls to increase the use of prescribed fire to mitigate the current landscape fire risk that British Columbia faces. …While I agree there is great need to increase the application of this ecologically appropriate and cost-effective tool, there has been little dialogue about solutions to the many barriers that currently limit its application. British Columbia is Canada’s most ecological diverse province with over 200 biogeoclimatic subzones/variants. Prescribed fire is suitable in some of these ecosystems, and its application requires careful planning and implementation to ensure it’s used appropriately and achieves sound ecological objectives – it’s not just about lighting a match.

Some of the most pressing and challenging issues that pose significant barriers to prescribed fire application include: our broad land management framework… gaps in legislation and policy and even definitions… legal liability for fire escapes… protection of human health and current smoke management guidelines… current high fuel loads… and capacity limitations as it relates to training and skills to execute sound, ecologically appropriate prescribed burns. …Before we can increase the landscape application of prescribed fire to a scale that is required to address the current fuel problems, we must work to reduce the barriers listed. As a collective group of practitioners, we need to do a better job of finding solutions to the barriers.

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