The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is reminding residents in B.C.’s Southern Interior that a large prescribed burn is planned for Tuesday, April 2.
In mid-March, the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) announced the planned burn on Crater Mountain west of Keremeos. According to the regional district, the prescribed burn will involve 200 hectares, and the resulting smoke may impact the Keremeos and Penticton areas.
Crews from the B.C. Wildfire Service will be managing the prescribed burn.
The ONA says the prescribed burn will restore forest and grassland health, including a bighorn sheep habitat. The ONA added that active fire suppression has led to extreme fuel loading and vegetation ingrowth throughout Syilx Territory.
“After the devastating wildfires that we experienced in 2018, it is vital that we implement these practices to enhance wildlife habitat and adapt to the effects of climate change,” said Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) Chief Keith Crow.
The B.C. Wildfire Service says it will be using
WATCH (March 19, 2019): Wildfire officials brace for Okanagan fire season
“(Prescribed fire) is a long-standing Syilx method that enhances wildlife habitat and reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfire. It only makes sense that we revitalize these practices.”
Overall, 680 hectares along the eastern slopes of Crater Mountain are being targeted for prescribed burns. The burns will reportedly help protect LSIB members and the village of Keremeos from potential wildfire.
The B.C. Wildfire Service says it will be using small, ping-pong sized balls filled with chemicals in creating the prescribed burn. The “dragon balls” are said to be filled with potassium permanganate and are injected with glycol. The balls are mechanically dropped from a helicopter and, when they hit the ground, there’s a delayed chemical reaction within 15 to 30 seconds.
The dragon ball will ignite, with the fire spreading slowly.
“With hand ignition, there’s a lot of ground to be covered,” said George Campbell of the B.C. Wildfire Service. “So, you know, if there’s two, three kilometers, that’s a lot of ground for our crews to cover versus in a helicopter.
“We can cover twice as much ground quite a bit faster. It’s just easier on our ground crews and basically we can cover the ground that much faster. That’s why we use (dragon balls).”