WATCH: The province is ramping up skills training at Campbell River’s and Port Alberni’s North Island College campuses in anticipation of a very busy wildfire season. There has already been a spike in fire activity early in the season and as Skye Ryan reports, officials are adding more boots on the ground to be ready.
Coastal Fire Centre’s Donna MacPherson said there is still dry fuel in Vancouver Island’s forests, even with the recent rain.
“So far this year, we’ve had 29 fires and that’s up from our average. Our average is usually around 21,” MacPherson said.
In Campbell River, North Island MLA Claire Trevena has announced natural resource management firm Strategic Natural Resource Consultants is receiving $126,000 from the Community Workforce Response Grant (CWRG) program to help train 12 firefighters in Port Alberni and 12 in Campbell River, with training delivered by North Island College.
The 4-week intensive training program that’s already underway will have the 24 students ready to fight this season’s wildfires and the tuition is all covered.
Student Jeff Dufault said he jumped at the chance to take part in the program.
“It’s still so early in the season and there’s already towns being threatened. So there’s definitely a matter of urgency so I’m happy to be a part of it,” Dufault said.
The students will join a force of over 2,000 B.C. firefighters who have already been hitting the woods and fighting what instructor Henry Grierson calls a concerning trend in fires.
“The biggest most scary kind of trend is these fires that are closer to towns and so they are affecting people and causing evacuations,” Grierson said.