WILLIAMS LAKE, BC: Members of the public are being reminded to be careful when travelling on Crown land in the Cariboo where wildfires occurred in 2017 and 2018, especially in areas where fireguards were established to help fight those fires.
A fireguard is a strip of land running along a wildfire’s perimeter (typically five to 10 metres wide) that is cleared of vegetation and other flammable material to slow the fire’s spread. Fireguards are either constructed manually by ground crews or by using heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, excavators or tractors. Firefighters use these open areas to carry out fire suppression operations and help bring a wildfire under control.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has been working to rehabilitate fireguards created in the Cariboo over the past two years. These environmentally sensitive areas are not intended for vehicle traffic, including off-road vehicles.
Anyone travelling or participating in recreational activities near fireguards or within burned areas should be aware of the following risks:
- Heavy machinery (including excavators, skidders and graders) may be working on or near fireguards. Always stay clear of any such machinery.
- Existing off-road vehicle trails may be impassable due to the effects of wildfires and fireguard construction.
- Fireguards may be impassable due to a rehabilitation treatment called “pullback,” in which soil and wood debris that were removed during the fireguard’s construction are redistributed along the fireguard.
- Trees and tree roots within burned areas can be severely damaged by fire. This could make the trees unstable and they could fall down without warning.
- Increased water flow during spring runoff periods (freshets) may have washed out sections of roads, trails and fireguards, which could result in deep ditches across previously established routes.
- Members of the public who use fireguards to reach hunting areas or participate in recreational opportunities may find those routes impassable on their return if the fireguards have been rehabilitated in the meantime.
Off-road vehicle operators must remain vigilant while riding on Crown land to help prevent wildfires. Spark arrestors are required for all off-road vehicles operating on Crown land.