Students completing the first year of the Forest Technology Program at Selkirk College spent time during their week-long field school helping protect vulnerable areas of Castlegar from wildfire.
As the class prepared to break for the summer, instructors in the two-year diploma program had students working in the forested areas of the Kinnaird neighbourhood during the last week of April. In partnership with the Castlegar Fire Department, students assisted the City of Castlegar with its FireSmart objectives. Teams of students and instructors were busy clearing brush in an area of the city identified as posing a risk to homes and infrastructure.
Students spent two full days in the Kinnaird neighbourhood of Castlegar cleaning brush to help protect the city from the dangers of wildfire.
“The Forest Technology Program focusses on experiential education,” says Carol Andrews, the Selkirk College instructor leading the field school. “Our goal is to have our grads ready to hit the ground running when they finish the two years. Through integrated project work, work experience days, and helping communities and local forest licensees meet their objectives, our students learn what it means to be a forest professional.”
Taking Classroom Learning to the Outdoors
Prior to donning hard helmets in the forest adjacent to Kinnaird Park, students and instructors developed a preliminary fuel mitigation prescription. The class then carried out the actual work to reduce the amount of ground fuel, ladder fuels, and thin the stands to separate the crowns of remaining trees. As part of the project, the City of Castlegar wants the community to be able to see the before and after results so they can start to think about what to do in their own backyards.
The students have been trained to offer free FireSmart assessments of homes in areas identified with higher risks to wildfire. Teams of students offered to spend an hour with each homeowner in the Kinnaird neighbourhood, reviewing what they might be able to do to reduce the risk to their homes and property.
City of Castlegar Mayor Bruno Tassone and Castlegar Fire Chief Sam Lattanzio stopped by the worksite to chat with the Forest Technology Program students and pose for a group shot.
Semester-ending field schools are also part of the curriculum for students in the Recreation, Fish & Wildlife Program and the Integrated Environmental Planning Program. Other than the fuel mitigation project, students in the Forest Technology Program spent time on projects that took a closer look at reforestation and cutblock assessment.
This is the second year that Selkirk College has taken part in the FireSmart efforts in partnership with the City of Castlegar. Glacier Tree Maintenance was also part of the project, helping students with the removal of the standing dead and hazard trees on city land.
“We are grateful to the City and the Castlegar Fire Department for this opportunity,” says Andrews. “This collaboration has educational benefits to the students as well as the community.”