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Councillor Kelly's Update on Fire Safety Concerns in Torbolton Forest

Updated: May 6

Since the beginning of Spring, I have been hearing from residents of Constance Bay who are concerned with the risks of living in a wooded area during hot, dry summers when the chances of wildfire increase. For many years, this was something we saw on the evening news, happening far away. But last season, we had a wildfire in nearby Calabogie, for example.

With predictions of another dry summer, combined with the damage from the derecho and tornadoes leaving more fuel in the forest, along with the fact that Constance Bay is accessed by a single road in and out, residents are worried about both the potential for wildfires as well as our ability to deal with it and keep people safe should this happen.

Last week in Constance Bay, I met with City of Ottawa Forestry (including the Director of Forestry Services) as well as Ottawa Fire Services, to look at some of the issues in-person, and to discuss actions we can take moving forward to limit the risks of wildfires.

First, I was very happy to learn that every year, Station 63 in Constance Bay considers how their ability to access all areas of the forest may be impacted by vegetation. They do an annual assessment of the Torbolton Forest to determine what work needs to be done to ensure safety. They had completed this annual assessment in anticipation of our meeting and did identify several areas of the forest where access has become limited or blocked due to damage in the forest.

In the short term, Ottawa Fire Services has committed to organizing a team to go in and clear the fire access lanes that are blocked, and City of Ottawa Forestry will support those efforts when needed. This work will take place over coming weeks to make sure all areas of forest are accessible to OFS and emergency services if needed.

Neither Forestry nor OFS are concerned with dead trees or limbs on the forest floor, due to the fact that once they hit the forest floor moisture comes up from the ground and rot begins to occur. What is more concerning for them are pockets of damaged or dead trees that are leaning or resting on each other. These dry quickly and provide fuel for fires. In the short-term, City of Ottawa Forestry is willing to look at these dangerous dry pockets that are not resting on the Forest floor. Removing all of the dead trees from the forest is not realistic or feasible and for now, the goal will be to make sure it ends up off the trails and on the forest floor, greatly reducing the risk of it becoming fuel during a wildfire.

While there is work to be done, OFS has committed to doing that work and is confident in the resources they have and their ability to respond to incidents and potential fires in the Torbolton Forest.  

After our meeting last week, Forestry has now added the Torbolton Forest to its medium-term work plan (next 5 years). The forest was last assessed and worked on 15 years ago, with efforts made to address fallen trees, etc. The Forestry Department will be putting together a plan and over the next 5 years, we can expect to see them come in to thin out and clean up the Torbolton Forest. This will include trimming the trees adjacent to the fire access lanes and trails to ensure they function effectively as fire breaks as they have in the past. This work will also include planting additional species of trees, such as oak, to diversify and return the forest to something that is more reflective of its original make up.

Education and prevention are key elements to preventing wildfires and it is worth noting that the majority of wildfires are started by humans. We all have a role to play in prevention. Read here about what you can do to prevent wildfires:

Join us on May 8th at the West Carleton Community Complex for our Fire Smart session hosted with West Carleton Disaster Relief.



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