While the sun is always welcome after a rainy winter, this summer is off to a very dry start. Along with the dry weather comes an increased risk of wildfires. As I type this, a wildfire by the Chehalis River, suspected to be human caused, is listed as a fire of note having burned 600 hectares. As stewards of the mountain bike trail networks within the Fraser Valley, we need to do our part to help prevent fires. Some forms of trail work that we do have the potential to start a fire and anyone helping care for the trails must follow proper safety practices to minimize the risks. If you’re planning to help out with trail work (especially with brushing or chainsaw work), keep reading to learn more about the restrictions implemented as fire hazard increases.
Mission Forestry issues daily fire hazard ratings for the areas which they manage, and Fire Danger Class (DGR) reports for other regions can be looked up on the BC Wildfire Service website (fire hazard ratings for weather stations in the Coastal Region). When Fire Danger Class ratings increase to MODERATE (DGR III) or higher, restrictions on high risk activities are implemented. These high risk activities include some common trail work tasks, such as power saw operation and mechanical brushing. A complete list of high risk activities can be found here. Trail building with hand tools is considered low risk.
When risk has been MODERATE (DGR III) for three or more consecutive days, a fire watch must be maintained for at least an hour after high risk work ceases. Each person working where the high risk activity is taking place must also be equipped with a fire fighting hand tool. Luckily for trail builders, these include tools we’re usually already carrying – shovels, mattocks, trail tools (very similar to a fire rake). Likewise, it’s important to have a fire suppression system on site. These precautions are kept in place until the fire danger class falls below DGR III.
When risk increases to HIGH (DGR IV), again, a fire watch must be maintained after work is completed, with the duration of the watch extended to at least two hours. After three consecutive days at HIGH, high risk activity is not permitted between 1 PM and sunset. These precautions are maintained until the hazard rating falls to DGR III for two consecutive days or falls below DGR III.
When risk increases to EXTREME (DGR V), as with DGR IV, high risk activity is not permitted between 1 PM and sunset and a fire watch is required for two hours after work has stopped. This must be maintained until the hazard rating falls below DGR IV for two or more consecutive days. After three consecutive days of DGR V, no high risk activity is permitted. High risk activities may not resume until fire danger rating falls to DGR IV for three or more consecutive days or falls below DGR IV.
For additional information on high risk activities and restrictions please refer to the Definitions (see “High Risk Activity”), Section 6 (Precautions: High Risk Activities) and Schedule 3 (Restrictions on High Risk Activities) of the Wildfire Act & Regulations. The FVMBA is grateful for all of the volunteers that help us brush back overgrown trails, clear fallen trees, and replace aging bridges. We ask everyone who helps with these trail maintenance activities to follow the restrictions.