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The impact of a devastating winter windstorm is still being felt in the Cowichan Valley seven months after gusts toppled trees in the area.

Municipal forestry crews have begun a large-scale deadfall salvaging program in the North Cowichan region where winds wreaked havoc in December 2018. 

Environment Canada tracked gusts of well over 100 kilometres per hour in communities up and down Vancouver Island. But the Cowichan Valley was hit especially hard. 

Dozens of homes in the area suffered severe damage from debris, and a woman was killed when a tree landed on her tent.

Seven months later and the winds are only a memory, but concerns remain. 

Vast swaths of recreational land in North Cowichan are still littered with a blanket of downed trees. 

Forestry crews say the debris could be disastrous if a wildfire sparks. 

“We are surrounded by homes,” municipal forester Shaun Mason told CTV News. “The road in this area is a one-way-in, one-way-out, so if there was a fire the concern and spread rate goes way up.”

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring launched the program to clear recreational areas such as Maple Mountain, Mt. Tzouhalem, and Stoney Hill. 

"When you have a bunch of timber all piled on each other, it is a bigger fire hazard than standing trees," Siebring said. "I mean, think of a bonfire.”

North Cowichan council has approved a plan to expand the salvage work to Mt. Prevost, Mt. Richards and Mt. Sicker. 

Municipal staff say there are roughly 10,000 cubic metres of deadfall remaining after the December windstorm.