Hazy skies and smoky air have become a normal part of the summer season for residents of Metro Vancouver. As the weather heats up and our forests dry out, wildfires are igniting with increasing regularity across British Columbia. As of August, 2021, 567,950 hectares of land across B.C. have been burned — an area that is nearly twice the size of the entire Metro Vancouver region.
With the frequency and intensity of wildfires increasing, icona is taking a leadership role in identifying and addressing those risks proactively to protect Anmore South and the wider Anmore community from wildfire risks. Recently, icona commissioned an analysis of the wildfire risk for 150 acres situated in the southwest corner of Anmore — an area covered by an unmanaged forest containing conifer thickets, shrubs, dead wood and overgrowth, standing grass and small creeks.
In brief, the analysis identified wildfire risks that icona is planning to address by:
Partnering with B.A. Blackwell and Associates Ltd., a Canadian forestry consultant that has provided integrated forestry and environmental consulting services to government, private sector, not-for-profit and First Nations clients since 1989, icona commissioned a detailed Site Review, Risk Analysis, and Management Plan for Anmore South.
Using historical fire ignition data, an inventory of the vegetation on the site and fire weather data, Blackwell conducted an analysis of the probability of a wildfire igniting in the area and the potential behaviour of the fire by looking at:
By analyzing these factors in depth, Blackwell determined the probability of ignition, the fire intensity and the rate of spread that was predicted for the area.
Probability of ignition. Blackwell factored in the historical fire frequency in the area from 1950 to 2019, weather conditions above the 90th percentile for heat and dryness, and the "fuel type" or types of trees and vegetation covering the area to predict the probability of a wildfire igniting.
>> Key finding: Anmore South has a low to moderate probability of seeing a wildfire ignite in the area.
Potential fire behaviour: Blackwell calculated the rate of spread, measured the steepness of the slope and interactions between slope and wind direction, and predicted the fuel consumption of the fire to express the intensity of the potential fire in terms of kilowatts per meter and meters per minute.
>> Key finding: Anmore South has a very low probability of seeing a wildfire exhibit extreme behaviour in the area.
A copy of the Site Review, Risk Analysis, and Management Plan was shared with the Village of Anmore.
In the course of the analysis, Blackwell identified several unique risk factors, and icona is taking action to address these risks and protect the wider community.
DEBRIS ACCUMULATION. Blackwell considered that a debris pile located on Sunnyside Road had the potential to fuel a fire.
>> Action: icona has made arrangements to immediately remove the debris pile identified by Blackwell as a potential hazard.
LACK OF WATER ACCESS. Blackwell's assessment of the area's wildfire risk factored the availability of hydrant service into the risk calculation. However, Anmore South is not currently connected to the regional water supply, which could pose significant problems should a wildfire ignite in the area.
>> Action: icona plans to provide direct access to regional water. With a change to “GeneralUrban” designation and rezoning to allow for increased density, icona will invest in excess of $100 million to provide Anmore South a direct connection to the regional water system, ensuring ample resourcing for the whole of Anmore including homeowners, business owners, and local firefighters.
UNMANAGED FOREST. Over the longer term, the vegetation covering the Anmore South area must be stewarded to ensure that areas with higher ignition risk are monitored and managed responsibly.
>> Action: icona is planning to establish an endowment. With a change to “General Urban” designation and rezoning to allow for increased density, icona will not only gift extensive parklands – at least six times the size of Rocky Point Park - but also establish an endowment to fund ongoing stewardship and preservation of these parklands. An action that will prevent wildfires igniting due to neglect and overgrowth.
Scientists predict that western Canada will see a 50% increase in the number of dry, windy days that cause fires to start and spread. By the end of the century, the areas burned by wildfires could increase by 100%.
As climate change continues to impact the region, icona is committed to taking a leadership stance in wildfire mitigation to support the continued stability and wellbeing of the communities we create.