Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Forest fires: municipalities are learning to live with mechanized stop lines

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At the dawn of a new forest fire season, the town of Chibougamau still bears the marks of the last one. The zone without vegetation must be maintained and perpetuated.

  • Annie-Claude Brisson (View profile)Annie-Claude Brisson

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Strategy used to fight forest fires which threatened several Quebec infrastructures in the summer of 2023, mechanized stop lines have proven effective. Since then, the municipalities which have benefited from these means of protection have borne their marks. Now is the time for valorization projects.

Towns like Senneterre and Chibougamau saw heavy machinery activate around them when forest fires were threatening. The equipment uprooted trees and dug into the ground nearly 8 kilometers long and 40 meters wide, leaving a wide swath devoid of vegetation to curb the fires.

I heard the excavators doing that, but I never came to see. We understood why we were doing it, but I didn't want to see it. It’s still well done in the circumstances, recalls the mayor of Chibougamau, Manon Cyr.

We had a bit of an emotional shock when we saw that scar.

A quote from Manon Cyr, mayor of Chicougamau

In this town in Northern Quebec, the trench stretches over 7.5 kilometers and measures 40 meters wide. The corridor extends from the southeast of the city and goes to the north of Chantiers Chibougamau. We had to act quickly to protect the hospital in particular.

We took a night to think about it. The next day, with the fire conditions, how was it coming, with the members of the council, I said: gang, we have no choice, we have to go from there ;before, recalls Ms. Cyr.

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At the dawn of a new forest fire season, the town of Chibougamau is still carrying the marks of the last one. The vegetation-free zone must be maintained and perpetuated.

We are in the process of seeing how we can transform this into an opportunity, then trying to see what we can develop, develop slightly because the objective remains protection, reports Ms. Cyr. /p>Open in full screen mode

The mayor of Chibougamau is looking for a way to upgrade the mechanized stop lines.

There are almost as many ideas as there are residents in the town of 7,500 souls.

I have citizens who want a snowmobile trail, I have some who want a snowmobile trail. others who want a hiking trail, snowshoeing, summarizes Manon Cyr.

The Faune en or organization was given the mandate to determine what could be developed in the long strip. A citizen consultation will be held over the coming months. Elected officials will then decide on the final vocation of the 7.5 kilometer corridor.

Nearly 350 kilometers further, the town of Senneterre must also , manage a huge trench around its urban perimeter.

Two consultations have already been held in recent months. A monitoring committee was born in order to determine the possibilities of occupying the fire trenches.

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A Sopfeu helicopter in a trench dug in Senneterre.

Mayor Nathalie-Ann Pelchat proudly points out that the matter was quickly taken in hand by the municipal council. Last summer's crisis brought the Senneterriens closer to elected officials.

We were very proactive. We are very happy that people responded to our call. That's what we wanted, to have a real portrait of people's concerns, she mentions.

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Mayor Nathalie-Ann Pelchat proudly emphasizes that the matter was quickly taken in hand by the municipal council.

Citizens mentioned several projects without restrict. People were still quite down to earth, they didn't dream too much, mentions the mayor with a smile in her voice.

The city's protection is, according to her, sufficient for the moment. Senneterre does not intend to expand the mechanized stop lines which partially surround it. It will, however, have to carry out maintenance, including improving the visual appearance. Solutions will also need to be identified for residences whose backyards overlook the forest. The objective is to restore a certain privacy to citizens.

It must be admitted that there are many ideas for taking advantage of mechanized stopping lines. Both in Senneterre and Chibougamau, it is the financing which will determine, in part, what can be achieved and the work schedule.

What will perhaps hold us back is that we will have to do it over several years, it is the costs that it will generate because as a community with a population of 7,500, with 17 or 18 million dollars budget, we can't afford to do that from our budgets. So, we will have to look at what exists, what can be done, explains the mayor of Chibougamau, Manon Cyr.

Senneterre turned to Loisir et Sport Abitibi-Témiscamingue (New window) because of numerous suggestions from citizens related to sports and leisure. The organization will be able to guide the municipal council on possible sources of funding. The City is also awaiting financial aid responses.

The establishment of mechanized stop lines near cities remains a exceptional measure just like the last forest fire season. This was a first for Pascal Lapointe who has more than 25 years of service at the Société de protection des forests contre le feu.

Often, we will take it as an offensive strategy, we will do it as close as possible to the fire to stop its progression. Around a town, predicting a fire that will approach, if I take the example of Chibougamau which is the one I know the most, it was really for reasons that x27;we were short of staff. It was a defensive strategy that had been put in place, explains the man who is the base leader of the Chibougamau-Chapais and Lac-Saint-Jean sectors.

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