VIDEO: Logan Lake FireSmart film sparks discussion in Williams Lake

The Test outlines the efforts Logan Lake has made in the last 18 years

A new documentary about Logan Lake’s efforts to make its community more fire resilient has struck a cord with viewers in the Williams Lake area.

Close to 100 people attended a screening of The Test, an hour-long feature about how Logan Lake became Canada’s first FireSmart community in 2013 and how that diligence played a big part in warding off the Tremont Creek Wildfire in August 2021.

The film was uploaded to YouTube on May 14, 2024.

After the screening, a six-man panel answered questions posed by moderator Mike Simpson and the audience.

Making up the panel were Francis Johnson, forest manager for Alkali Resource Management and Esk’etemc hereditary chief, Danny Merth, lands resource specialist for the Ministry of Forests Cariboo Chilcotin, Matt Lees, business manager for BC Wildfire Service Cariboo Fire Centre, Travis Flanagan, FireSmart educator for the Cariboo Regional District, John Walker, Williams Lake First Nation natural resource and economic development stewardship forester and Evan Dean, Williams Lake director of protective services.

Simpson asked each of them what struck them about the film.

Johnson said the film brought back the raw emotion he felt when children were sent away because of the evacuation order in 2017, how vacant the community was when everyone was gone and what it was like to stay back to be part of firefighting efforts.

“I was struck by the gratitude that people showed when they were welcomed back home.”

For Merth it was the amount of planning done by Logan Lake.

“It was eye-opening that they spent 18 years trying to get to that stage. But, also the importance of the private land fire smarting combined with public land treatments,” Merth said, noting the two go hand-in-hand.

Lees said it made him think about the complacency that can happen within communities around wildfire threats.

“It is easy to lose sight of what the goals are at times so it is important to know what your goals and objectives are moving forward.”

Flanagan enjoyed how everyone in Logan Lake got behind the fire smarting efforts.

“I liked the way how it was from the mayor and all the way down and how everyone really bought in.”

Walker said the collaboration between all the different organizations was also inspiring along with everyone wanting to make things better and seeing the results.

Dean said the film hit him a gut level in a number of ways.

“It felt a lot like 2017, especially having been on the fire department perspective and welcoming the community back in.”

Dean also appreciated the fire smart aspect because it showed whatever anyone can do, including private land owners, helps reduce the strain put on the firefighters.

“If you do the things in advance it helps everybody try and do the job better.”

Another question they were asked was how well are our communities prepared?

Johnson said Esk’etemc has been preparing since 2017 with primary and secondary fuel breaks around the community. They have purchased structure protection equipment and have man firefighters, including trained initial attack crews.

“It gives the community that sense of security,” Johnson said. “When they know those things are there they feel more relaxed. Our communication has improved too.”

Merth said from the wildfire land perspective, there has been lots of work done since 2017 around the district.

“There are still a ton of areas that need to be treated, but I think we are heading in the right direction.”

Several user groups are involved with fuel treatment work, he said.

Lees agreed saying the region has come along way in planning in the urban interface areas.

“I think we still have a long way to go when it comes to treating the private land adjacent to the fuel treatments we have in place,” he said, adding where he lives there is only one way in and one way out.

Flanagan said the region still has a long way to go and there is a lot of room for improvement.

“I don’t think there is a block in Williams Lake that doesn’t have a juniper or a cedar in it.”

While some people have bought into the idea of FireSmart others have not, Flanagan said.

WLFN started in 2013 with a wildfire risk reduction plan and updated it in 2021, Walker said.

Crews have done work around critical infrastructure and elders’ homes and been proactive with burning grasslands, which is one of the biggest risks.

“We are also looking at the area as a whole,” Walker said. “We worked with the city to do some FireSmarting and are working with the provincial government on fuel treatment.”

Dean said the city feels ‘quite’ prepared with the work that has been done for a number of years in fuel treatment, but more education is needed, a well as public involvement and the public taking more responsibility.

“There are things we all need to do around our own properties,” Dean said.

Logan Lake has a youth FireSmart crew hired every summer to do work around the community that was featured in the documentary.

The idea resonated with residents who viewed the film with some asking how something similar could be started locally.

Dean agreed describing it as a spectacular idea, noting he has reached out to Logan Lake for more details to find out how they started it.

Lees said the Cariboo Fire Centre has its junior firefighting program and this year has hired 20 youthg, while Merth said many contractors do hire younger workers to do fuel management work.

Local students also do fuel mitigation work in the Williams Lake Community Forest, Walker added.

There was a table filled with FireSmart materials, including how to do a home ignition self-assessment - all of the materials are available on the FireSmartBC website.

The evening was hosted by a number of agencies including BC Wildfire Service, Cariboo Regional District and city of Williams Lake.

READ MORE: Cariboo Regional District appoints new FireSmart coordinator

READ MORE: FireSmart video for Cariboo communities released on YouTube

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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