February 1, 1935- September 20, 2013
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Born in Natal B.C. February 1, 1935, and raised in Kimberly B.C., the son of Italian parents, Sylvio, a High School teacher, and Theresa (nee Cossarini), a farmer's daughter. Passion, enlightenment, and stubbornness were qualities expressed throughout Sylvestor John Muraro's life, whether it was teenage "Hunting trips", as a Smokejumper out of Missoula while attending university, and particularly advancing the use of fire in managing B.C. forest. Later this same persistance characterized his pursuit of silviculture ventures in the private sector, and his enjoyment for good food, wine and life in general. Throughout his life, John was his own student of the nature of things.
John's lifetime occupation with Forestry began with timber cruising for the Nelson Forest office. The District Forester convinced him to continue his education. John successfully completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in Fire Science at the Montana State University in 1960. Immediately, John began his professional career with the Canadian Forest Service at the newly opened Federal Research Institute in Victoria, B.C.
At this time John started a family with Eva Mildred (nee Crogen) of Prince George, B.C. Together they raised a son, James William and daughter, Yvonne Theresa first in Fairfield, and then in Central Saanich, in a home perched above Island View beach.
John was a great idea's guy whose collaboration and support from others resulted in new technologies, products and tools. One of his first projects at the Canadian Forest Service at Mabel Lake led to John's effective ignition techniques for both logging slash and standing timber fires. Working with colleague's, airborne ignition machines were developed: the helitorch and a dispenser of injected spherical incendiaries. These machines and techniques, when commercialized by BC manufacturers revolutionized the safe and effective ignition of fires - they are in use globally today.
John and colleagues also produced automated fire weather stations to collect and transmit data from remote sites to central offices. Once commercialized, these station networks have advanced the use of local weather forecasting. Importantly, they improved the prevention and suppression of wildfires and prescribed burns.
John was about more than gadgets and technology. He was a source of ideas for the fledgling Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System, under development by CFS in the 1960s. John's modular concepts for a "Universal Burning Index" were adopted by the CFS Fire Danger Group as the Canadian Forest Fire Behavior Prediction System- a system still in use across Canada today.
Even though John spent only 18 years at PFC, a lot of seeds of long-lasting successful fire science and technology developments were sown. John was a character, difficult to manage and to work for, perhaps, but his many contributions to fire science and practice live on across Canada and around the world. John's work resulted in 49 publications in B.C. Information reports, Symposium Proceedings, and Canadian Forest Service Bulletins.
For those who knew John at work and play, they appreciated his capacity to live life large.
In 1978, John started Climax Land Management in Riske Creek, B.C. - a venture working with the ranchers of the Chilcotin clearing range land, and harvesting timber for portable mills. An ecologist at heart, John was one of the first to utilize Pine trees killed by beetles for dimensional lumber. Soft wood lumber tariffs from the US ultimately spelled the demise of a healthy Canadian Lumber industry, and John's first entrepreneurial venture. John shared his time in Riske Creek with new partner Sandy Bardeau.
Prince George became John's final hometown and the headquarters for Baseline Prescriptions, a company which he successfully ran for 25-plus years with the support of Donna Bennet and Byan Kiem. To many, Baseline Prescriptions became synonymous with forest husbandry in Central British Colombia. Operating in all aspects of silviculture: timber cruising, seed harvesting, tree planting, fire suppression, and prescribed burning, Baseline employed up to 60 people during the summer months. John became a fixture in Prince George, someone capable of providing jobs or the time of day while enjoying a beer after a long day at the Day's Inn.
John spent the last years of his life at the Kiwanis Pavilion in Victoria B.C. It is interesting that during this time, John's reality remained with forestry and the people he worked with. He could be heard saying "we need to get the men out of the bush - the weather is changing". The family is grateful for the compassionate care by the staff at the Pavilion, especially Nurses Yvonne Ollet, Lesley Scholtz, and the advocacy and care of Dr. Jeff Inman.
John is survived by brother Theodore William of Vancouver, and his wife Lois, and their son Theodore John (Celia), sister Sylvia Joanne of Coffs Harbour, Australia, and her husband Des deNeiderhausen, and their children, Aaron and Taj, and by son James William of Calgary, Alberta, and daughter Yvonne Teresa Muraro of Victoria and her son Mitchell David Cull of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
A celebration of life will be held for John, Friday at 2:00pm in the Beacon Landing Restaurant located beneath the Sidney Waterfront Hotel (2537 Beacon Ave).
Published in Victoria Times Colonist from Sept. 25 to Sept. 26, 2013