May 19, 2024
Elder Rick Campbell, a former Chief of the Boothroyd Indian Band, stands near the site of the prescribed cultural burn project near his community on Nlaka’pamux homelands. The practice of such burns hasn’t been done in some areas throughout the nation for at least 500 years. ‘It’s long overdue,’ he says. Photo by Aaron Hemens.

How Prescribed Cultural Burns Protect Communities

They’re rooted in generational knowledge. And they’re long overdue.

[Editor’s note: Place names in this piece are in quotation marks to honour the style of the source publication, IndigiNews.]

After fuelling up their drip torches, BC Wildfire Service workers wearing red jackets begin to lay fire to an area of dry forest ground in Nlaka’pamux territory.

Donning helmets and gloves, the crew members walk side by side in straight lines through the dense woodland area around them, slowly running their torches through vegetation and surface debris near their feet. They leave trails of fire behind them as they trudge along.

The controlled burn on May 2 was conducted in partnership between the Boothroyd Indian Band and BCWS on band land, located near “Boston Bar,” just across from the entrance to the community, with Highway 1 dividing the two.

The project was designed to help build on the Nlaka’pamux community’s knowledge of fire and the ecosystem, as well as to improve their confidence in mitigating wildfires. Fifteen BCWS members trained six young contract firefighters from Boothroyd on how to conduct a prescribed burn.

The community itself has an extensive and long history of conducting their own cultural burns. Their wildfire mitigation treatment consists of trimming trees, removing debris, piling it all together and burning.

Elder and former band Chief Rick Campbell estimated that the practice of cultural and prescribed burns hasn’t been done in some areas throughout the nation for at least 500 years.

“I think it’s long overdue,” he said.

Interesting Read…

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