POWELL RIVER, B.C. – Work on the Penticton Trails fuel mitigation project is progressing nicely.

This is according to qathet Regional District manager of emergency services Ryan Thoms, who provided an update.

“The work is going great,” Thoms said. “Crews (are) getting really close to the end, now, so we’ll probably wrap up by the end of May, is the goal.”

The work, which started in January, is part of the community wildfire protection plan, intended to reduce the risk of urban, interface forest fires by clearing the parkland of fallen branches, leaves and other materials that allow for the quick spread of wildfire.

Thoms believes the work is going to make a big difference in lessening the wildfire risk in the area.

“Definitely first and foremost for this neighbourhood as well as we’re hoping to expand this out into the reminder of the Penticton Trails, which is really a cornerstone within the region, that would give us a really good piece of treated, forested, recreational trails abutting residential, industrial area of our community,” Thoms said.

“It’s a big project for us. This first step is almost done, so that’s exciting. There’s a lot of education potential in this, too. We’re hoping to do some tours, etc. once it’s done, to show this concept of a shaded fuel break and what fuel mitigation looks like on the ground, so that part’s all exciting, too.”

According to a release from the City of Powell River, spring has been and continues to be extremely hot and dry, and an early morning start this past Friday was out of concern for the condition of the forest.

“For general forest practices, this is a responsible and reasonable request,” said Powell River fire rescue coordinator/public educator Tricia Greenwood, adding that the city’s noise bylaw has a provision that allows for this work to be done on city lands.

“Although there will be limited impact due to the proximity of the work, there is expectation that neighbouring properties will be able to hear the machinery.”

According to the City’s Engineering Services Division, the contractor would like to respect the neighbourhood.

“We appreciate the public’s patience with this important project,” Thoms said.

“We anticipate the project to be completed by the end of May in time for public use of the trails in this newly FireSmarted city park.”