Maple Ridge fire department, Hydro work out a plan

UBC Research Forest, fire department worried about wildfires

  • Jun. 21, 2013 12:00 p.m.

The fire chiefs and B.C. Hydro have figured out a way to minimize the risk of wild fires on the new powerline right of way, slicing through northern Maple Ridge.

Fire chief Peter Grootendorst said Hydro and its contractor Flatiron-Graham met with the fire department, the Wildfire Management Branch and UBC’s Malcolm Knapp Research Forest, located at the north end of 232nd Street, to work on a “pre-fire plan” to prevent a forest fire during mid summer.

Research forest manager Paul Lawson is worried that piles of slash left over from the clearing could fuel a major fire during mid summer. If fire spread to the nearby research forest, tree-growing experiments spanning decades could be wiped out.

Grootendorst said  Hydro will start grinding and chipping the timber piles next week, then hauling the chips off site.

The research forest and fire department pointed out the high hazard areas that will be the priorities for removing the debris.

Grootendorst expects the chipping to be underway within two weeks, in time to get debris chewed through before hot weather makes the forest too risky to work in.

B.C. Hydro has said work crews are all trained in firefighting and equipment is on standby as well as helicopters.

A mock firefighting exercise will also be part of the preparations.

The fire department has previously written to Hydro about the issue.

Grootendorst said the powerline right of way stretches 14 kilometres through Maple Ridge, which works out to about 200 hectares.

B.C. Hydro and its contractor, Flatiron-Graham are  building a 247-kilometre, 500-kilovolt powerline from Merritt to Coquitlam, mostly along an existing powerline.