High fire risk for British Columbia resorts

The fire risk surrounding many of British Columbia's resorts is high, Public Eye has learned. As a result, the ministry of tourism, culture and the arts will be preparing wildfire protection plans for three of those resorts - just as the province's fire season is heating up. But those plans won't be ready until November.

According to documents posted yesterday on BC Bid, an analysis completed by the ministry's resort development branch in 2009 indicated "the fire threat risk is high on many resorts within Controlled Recreation Areas on Crown Land in BC."

That's a threat to "millions of dollars in recreational improvements (i.e. ski lifts, bike trails/courses) on Crown Land as well high value properties and infrastructure on adjacent private land."

And, should a catastrophic fire occur, the ministry's goals of making British Columbia a world class all season resort destination and doubling tourism revenues by 2015 could be "impacted."

As a result, the ministry is looking to hire consultants to prepare wildlife protection plans that will assess interface fire risks around Big White, Panorama and Silver Star and "provide recommendations on how the hazard can be reduced to low and moderate levels."

The budget for each plan is approximately $11,000. But the plans won't be ready until November 2009.

In response, a ministry spokesperson said tourism, culture and the arts assumed responsibility for controlled recreation areas in 2006. And the preparation of those plans is part of that responsibility. The spokesperson also said plans will eventually be written for all of the 31 areas under the ministry's control.

The following is a complete copy of the relevant portion of those requests for proposal.

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3. Ministry Situation/Overview

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts concentrates its efforts on supporting the foundations of tourism supply, such as resorts, convention centres, trails, recreational sites, heritage sites, and the emerging area of cultural tourism.

The Ministry works to enhance the province's reputation as a world class resort destination and to achieve the Premier's goal to double tourism revenues by 2015 with a wide array of experiences, through:

* Making resorts, recreation sites, and trails a priority, with the Ministry serving as a cornerstone partner in providing outdoor recreational choices to British Columbians and visitors;

* Supporting the province's artistic, cultural, and heritage communities through the new cultural tourism strategy; and

* Championing world class convention centres, which not only attract business travellers from around the world, but work hand in hand with province's other tourism attractions to bring these travellers, and their friends and families, back again for personal visits.

3.1 Background

The Resort Development Branch of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, (MTCA), administers Land Act and Forest Act tenures within Controlled Recreation Areas (CRAs), throughout the Province of BC. The Resort Development Branch works closely with other government ministries, agencies, local governments, First Nations, the public, resort operators, and investors to support and facilitate new and expanded resort developments. The Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts has the responsibility to administer and manage the timber within the designated CRAs under the Resort Timber Administration Act (RTAA). Initial GIS analysis, completed by the Resort Development Branch in 2009, indicates that the fire threat risk is high on many resorts within Controlled Recreation Areas on Crown Land in BC. Catastrophic fires affecting resorts could impact some of our Ministry's tourism priorities such as:

"BC becomes a world class all season resort destination"
"BC outdoor recreation opportunities are sustainably developed, managed and maintained"
"Double tourism revenues by 2015"

Many Ski resorts in BC are expanding their recreational activities into the summer months. There is a demand for more "all season" activities such as golfing, mountain biking and hiking. This is especially important to resorts that may experience low snow years or shortened ski seasons. As a result of non winter activities the amount of recreational users within the CRA increases during the fire season. This may increase the chances for human caused fires. Most CRAs have millions of dollars in recreational improvements (i.e. ski lifts, bike trails/courses) on Crown Land as well high value properties and infrastructure on adjacent private land. Each year there are more than 2,000 forest fires in BC, and although most occur far from populated areas many still start in "wildland urban interface" areas. These kinds of fires frequently threaten or burn homes, summer cottages and cabins, and other high value resources.

By assessing the interface wildfire hazard ratings in and around the village and the CRA the Resort Wildfire Protection Plan will provide recommendations on how the hazard can be reduced to low and moderate levels and therefore contribute to protecting public safety, recreational improvements/infrastructure and interruption free all season recreational use.

3.2 Budget

The ministry expects the project to be valued at approximately $11,000.

The bidder must submit an all inclusive lump sum price including travel costs. Travel costs associated with the project must not exceed 20% of the total budget.

4. Key Dates and Reporting Requirements

The tentative schedule for preparation of the RWPP is as follows:

* Retain forest professional consultant to prepare RWPP July 2009
* Field work to assess hazards and determine mitigation strategies July-Sept 2009
* Prepare Draft RWPP, MTCA staff review August/September 2009
* Final Review by MTCA September/October 2009
* Submit Final RWPP in both reproducible hard copy and in compatible digital (Microsoft Word) November 2009

1 Comment

Sure the fire risk is high. It happens quite regularly. But what has that got to do with convention centers is a bit of a stetch.
Eveyone knows that a great percentage of fires are man made, yet we see cut backs in park workers. Is anyone still manning the fire towers?

I flew water bombers in this province for a couple of years in the early 70's. In both years the contract ran from April to early summer. We had as many fires after the contract expired and finally stood down in October. The day the contract ends, the cost per hour goes way up. Conair and The Forest companies had water bombers tankers as well. We spent a lot of our time doing fire surpresiion in Alberta as well during our fire season and after. The Mars is under contract to California right now. The outfit I flew for left the country.(The Flying Firemen. )

Maybe this government should focus on such things. Reading the memo makes me think its more of a make work project for PR folks that getting extra people on fire lines.

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