To-do this winter: Protect your home from wildfire

From Victoria, most of us can only watch, worry and send donations to those affected by wildfires across BC and beyond. But with their valuable skills and equipment, West Shore based Osprey Tree Service has been able to actively help, deploying crews to the front lines to fight wildfires since 2010.

“All of our workers are experienced Wildland Firefighters and Forestry Professionals, so when they’re not working locally as arborists, fallers and FireSmart workers, they’re filling emergency service firefighting contracts under our ‘Osprey Forest Operations Ltd.’ division,” says Jared Witt of Osprey Tree Service.

Osprey crews have been deployed to fires across the province, including the Bush Creek Fire, which forced the emergency evacuation of Scotch Creek in August.

“The fire came up on the town so fast that people were forced to flee across the lake. Our crews helped BC Wildfire Service evacuate residents, and then sheltered along the lake while the fire burned over the town — including the firefighter’s camp. When the fire finally passed over, our crew was able to evacuate to Kamloops where they spent the night on the floor of the conference room at the Holiday Inn. The next morning, they went back out to the fire line to try to save people’s homes,” Witt says. “We’re so proud of our crews bravely fighting fires across the province.”

Peter from Osprey Tree Service pruning lower ladder fuel branches on cedar trees to prevent a wildfire travelling from the ground to tree canopies.

Peter from Osprey Tree Service pruning lower ladder fuel branches on cedar trees to prevent a wildfire travelling from the ground to tree canopies.

FireSmart mitigaton works

When the rains finally douse wildfires this fall, Osprey Tree Service crews will bring another season’s experience to their FireSmart mitigation projects on residential and commercial properties on Vancouver Island.

“Our crews have helped save hundreds of homes in the last few weeks, but the properties that had already prepared against a wildfire event were more likely to survive the fire — by far. Preparation is so critically important,” Witt says.

Most commercial and residential property owners see the value in FireSmart mitigation, but many are so daunted by the size of the task that they end up taking no action.

“FireSmart mitigation happens in steps — start slowly so the job is less daunting. Osprey Tree Service can help you make a plan, and then we can can chip away at the plan in phases,” Witt says.

  • Remove fuel: Remove flammable vegetation beside structures, including bark mulch, long grass, wood piles, dead or dying trees and flammable landscaping plants.
  • Reduce fuels: Pruning, thinning, mowing, safe mulching, etc., especially for properties located near forested areas in the ‘Interface Zone.’
  • Convert species: Replace flammable species with less flammable ones. For example, cedar and other conifer hedges are significantly more flammable than deciduous hedges. The FireSmart landscaping guide includes a list of FireSmart Plants.
  • Ongoing management: Clean up branches and debris from under trees and in hedges in the winter, so there isn’t a thick, flammable layer when wildfire season arrives. Prune ‘ladder fuels’ that could allow a smouldering ground fire to climb up a tree into the canopy and to structures. This includes branches on the lower 3 meters of trees, dry debris, wood piles, etc.

“Not only do FireSmart mitigation projects protect your property, they can also help reduce wildfire intensity and rate of spread — and serve as inspiration for neighbours considering their own FireSmart projects,” Witt says. “Autumn and winter are the best times to do your wildfire fuel reduction projects, as wildfire season has been starting earlier and earlier each year.”

Osprey Tree Service is based on the West Shore of Victoria, BC and primarily serves southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Learn more at For a free quote, call 250-474-7993 or email

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