It’s that time of year again: wildfire hazards are minimal, municipal bylaws are lifted and the burning season begins. Farming, forestry, industry, residential – there’s a lot of burning going on. Unfortunately, where there’s fire, there’s smoke – often, lots of smoke.

Human use of fire to manage B.C.’s forests is about as old as the forests themselves. As private managed forest owners we know a lot about prescribed burning – how to minimize community hazards and improve forest health.

Here are 4 important things to know about what forest owners burn, and why.

1. Burning is about keeping our forests, our neighbours and our communities safe.

Forest debris is a fire hazard. The timber harvesting process leaves behind piles of unmerchantable debris – broken tops, limbs, rotten wood.

It’s a much safer idea to use planned, controlled burns to remove the debris than to leave piles of “fuel” lying around for chance encounters with lightening, human ignorance (e.g. cigarettes) and other fire hazards. Over 50% of BC wildfires are caused by human activity.

2. Burning is a last resort (or, wed sell it if we could).

One person’s debris is another person’s treasure. In Europe, the material we’re burning is worth $75 per tonne at roadside. It’s true. They get more for firewood than we get for saw logs.

There is no market for the fibre that finds its way into burn piles. If there were a market, we’d happily sell, rather than burn. For now, burning is the most responsible way to manage our forests.

3. Managed forest owners burn responsibly and plan our activities to minimize disturbances. 

Nobody likes smoke. Nobody. That’s why we plan and manage our activities to minimize the frequency, duration, and intensity of smoke. Here’s how:

Burning dry material creates significantly less smoke than burning wet material.

  • Log loader operators take time and care to deliberately stack burn piles into beehive shape structures that facilitate drying.
  • We cover debris piles with tarps to keep them dry.
  • We check weather conditions before burning – temperature inversion and venting indexes affect how smoke moves (especially for valley dwellers). 

4. Fire and prescribed burning are important tools for managing B.C.’s forests.

Especially, forests full of fire-dependant species like Douglas fir and lodgepole pine. The key is to do it responsibly, to act in a way that minimizes health hazards and maximizes forest health. A great deal of time was spent to evaluate, analyze and legislate responsible practices. Follow the open burn regulations and guidelines in place to protect everyone. We do.