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Fire season mercifully ramping down

Council briefs: Updated solid waste bylaw adopted

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The worst wildfire season in British Columbia's history is beginning to ramp down.

"Wow. What a fire season, and it's not really over, although the change in weather is certainly indicating that we're over the hump," said Whistler Fire Rescue Service Chief Geoff Playfair in a Sept. 19 council presentation.

"To that point, this morning the province lifted the campfire ban in the coastal district, and so I followed suit and lifted the campfire ban for Whistler as well."

More than 12,000 fires have burned about 11,700 square kilometres to date, with many still blazing, Playfair said.

"To put that into perspective, that's 50 times the land area of the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), so significant areas of the province," he said.

Whistler spent 62 days under an extreme fire danger rating this year, and another 19 under high, with just 24.4 millimetres of precipitation from June 24 to Sept. 12 (about nine millimetres of which occurred in the days before Sept. 19).

"I can say in 35 years here in Whistler and with the fire department, I don't remember anything close to 60 days in extreme," Playfair said.

What's also interesting is the type of wood that has burned, he added: trees affected by mountain pine beetles over the last decade.

"That 11,700 square kilometres represents only 10 per cent of that beetle-kill forest in B.C.," he said. "So there's a lot more to burn, another 90 per cent to go, and it will burn. So get ready."

The RMOW is doing what it can.

FireSmart coordinator Scott Rogers was busy this year, working with 27 strata properties (representing more than 825 units) and six private homeowners, as well as coordinating community work days and an education drive at Whistler Secondary School, among other initiatives.

"The community response to this has been very, very positive, and it's increasing as far as the uptake," Rogers said.

The RMOW will start work on two more fuel-thinning projects in early October, covering 6.2 hectares above the Whistler Cemetery and 15 hectares above Alpine Meadows thanks to $400,000 from the Union of BC Municipalities.

There's also a corridor-wide evacuation plan in the works, which will hopefully be in place for next year's fire season.

The RMOW and its partners are now taking stock of the fire season and developing a list of opportunities for the coming years.

"While it's fresh in our minds, now that we're moving out of the fire season, we're getting into planning for next year," said emergency services coordinator Erin Marriner.

"We did have a lot of new initiatives this summer that were successful that we want to capture, but also ideas for future opportunities going into future fire seasons."

UPDATED SOLID WASTE BYLAW ADOPTED

Whistler's updated solid waste bylaw was adopted at long last at the Sept. 19 council meeting.

The bylaw requires all businesses and stratas to separate waste into three streams: food-scrap organics, recyclables, and landfill waste.

Food-service businesses are also required to submit a Solid Waste Management Plan as part of their business license application.

The focus will be on education for the first year, with enforcement through fines to start in August 2018

Companion bylaw amendments to help businesses and stratas deal with the changes were also adopted.

More public consultation around the bylaws will take place this fall.

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