A prescribed burn saved lives and homes on this B.C. First Nation, offering a glimpse at firefighting’s future

By Wendy Stueck
The Globe and Mail
January 8, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: Canada, Canada West

On July 17 the St. Mary’s River wildfire raced through the First Nations community of Aq’am. Driven by strong winds, the fire destroyed seven homes in Aq’am and burned hot enough to sterilize soil. It put more than 500 homes under evacuation alert and sent plumes of choking smoke into the summer sky. But the St. Mary’s fire is also notable for what it didn’t burn. Months before the blaze, in April, Aq’am – with support from the wildfire service and the Cranbrook and Kimberley fire departments – had carried out a prescribed burn on its biggest reserve, Kootenay 1, a swath of forest and pasture that covers about 75 square kilometres just east of the Canadian Rockies International Airport. …For everyone involved, it became a case study in fighting fire with fire, in a year when B.C. and Canada grappled with the costs and widespread impact of the country’s most destructive wildfire season on record.

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