By Andru McCracken

There are 95 separate permits for class 3 open burns in the Robson Valley Fire Zone according to the Province’s Open Fire Tracking System.

Straddling either side of Buffalo Road are more than 80 piles of varying sizes. Valemount Community Forest President Ainslie Jackman told the Goat this summer that the piles include more material than usual, a move they took to help sanitize a mistletoe infestation in the area that left the forest more prone to burning (and other forest health problems) posing a serious threat to nearby infrastructure and homes. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

The province shares little data about the fires other than that burn permits are granted for 3 months. There is no data about how many piles there are for each permit, nor how large the piles are.

In September 2019 the Province introduced a new Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation, that prioritizes air quality around communities like McBride, Tete Jaune and Valemount.

When piled well, the slash burns fast and hot, like this pile did on Swift Mountain Forest Service Road close to Valemount. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

Under the new regs, burn piles must be seasoned, having a moisture content less than 30%, have been piled for at least four months, or have originated from standing dead timber.

The new regulation demands that ‘every reasonable alternative must be used to minimize burning by reducing, reusing or recycling vegetative debris,’ and that smoke be minimized by minimizing soil content and maximizing seasoned debris. Debris piles should also maximize airflow.

Burning is only allowed when a ventilation index forecast permits, especially in highly sensitive areas close to communities (the index is public online).

Burn permits dot the Robson Valley, leaving some residents stewing about the impact on air quality and considering the amount of waste and pollution generated by logging. If you want to see whether there are piles near your home or in your airshed check out this mapping tool that shows where permits have been granted. /GOVERNMENT OF BC

Valemount has been flagged for its poor air quality in the winter time. There are 21 burn permits within a 10 km radius of the Village of Valemount.

We asked the Valemount Community Forest about their plans for burning this fall and winter, but didn’t hear back by press time.