Olalla fire, forestry issues highlight director’s report

Olalla fire handled well by Keremeos firefighters; Apex logging continues to cause concern

Angelique Wood

Angelique Wood

Fire in Olalla  June 9th

From all accounts, the Keremeos Volunteer Fire Department performed heroically on Sunday June 9, having fought an orchard fire earlier in the evening and then responding to a call out in Olalla at the Kilborn residence.

Bystanders exclaimed at how terrifying the fire was, with a lot of tall trees in the neighbourhood and sparks flying everywhere.  The explosions from the propane tanks rocked the community, though everyone I spoke to described the Keremeos firefighters as top-notch, making the onlookers feel that everything was well under control.

We are fortunate in the Similkameen to have such great volunteer fire departments, particularly since we live in such a dry area.  As summer approaches, every tall dry grass field becomes a fuel and stray campfire sparks or lit cigarette butts can ignite a hillside when a little wind comes up.

Apex Logging

A number of concerned Apex residents have worked hard to develop awareness and understanding of the clear cuts currently taking place up at Apex Mountain Resort.  They are working to try and change the logging approach to an area directly within view of the Apex resort.  This area, impacted by Mountain Pine beetle kill, has been targeted for removal but that decision has owners upset.

Because the cut blocks sit within the Gorman Brothers tenure area, a process was initiated by Gorman more than a year ago to notify the management at Apex of the pending cut.  A change of directors in the Apex Property Owners Association, and a change in who was slated to log the area, has caused a few communication breakdowns. Since the first communication with the resort by Gorman Brothers, the provincial government  has awarded a part of the tenure area to Penticton Indian Band’s forestry company, Snpinktn.

In order to preserve the value of the logs, a clear cut approach is necessary for the PIB to recoup their costs.  The longer the logs stand dead, the greater their drop in value, as the wood fibre degrades from millable wood to material for pulp. Fifty dollar logs turn into twenty dollar logs.

Dennis O’Gorman (no relation to Gorman Brothers) is a resident and director of the Apex Property Owners Association.  He moderated a four hour meeting with representation from Apex property owners, forestry companies, Penticton Indian Band and local elected officials.  While the meeting did not halt the plans for logging, the leadership of Snpinktn were receptive to the Apex Property Owners concerns, and for attendees not familiar with logging practices, the foresters were great at explaining why some approaches work within the forest and others do not.

The difficulty, as a forester from Gorman Brothers pointed out, is that the forests surrounding Apex are on Crown Land and slated for logging. Where they are impacted by beetle kill, they offer a fire hazard if they remain unharvested and their value diminishes as they stand. There is also the potential for the beetle infestation to spread if the trees remain.

The manager for Snpinktn Forestry was willing to preserve certain areas for recreational values and identified strategies that the logging company would employ to do this.  Leaving swaths of trees that were young, and not pine, to create the sense of “cover” was planned.  Efforts were being made to naturalize the edge of the cutblocks by filigreeing them, and once the replanting is done, the shock of the clear cut should be diminished.

 

Tom Siddon, Electoral Area Director for Area “D”, had some ideas about avenues to pursue to alter some of the coming cut blocks, but the difficulty for the logging company is that their investment is already paid out – and with stumpage fees already determined and a finite window of time for harvest, there is not a lot of room for negotiation.