Province taking steps ahead of what could be another busy wildfire season

CHEK

The snowpack on Vancouver Island is 44 per cent of what it should be at this time of year — just one indication that the coming forest fire season in B.C. could be another bad one.

“And while we all hope for more rain in the months ahead, we are taking action now to prepare for what could be a very challenging season,” said Bowinn Ma, minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness.

“We’re taking action earlier than ever, and preparations for this year’s wildfire season are already well underway. We have seen the devastating consequences of climate change on our communities, and we are using lessons learned from last year to strengthen our approach to emergencies,” said Ma.

“By taking a whole-of-government approach and working with local governments, First Nations and emergency-response partners, we can ensure we are as prepared as possible for whatever might come.”

The Island’s most disruptive fire last year was the Cameron Lake blaze, which burned for weeks and shut down Highway 4, causing problems coast to coast.

This year, the province is taking measures to fight fires better across B.C.

“We’re upgrading our existing aviation fleet to include additional plane and helicopter leasing agreements and securing more pumps, mass water delivery systems, camp infrastructure and structure protection,” said Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston.

The government is also trying new technology that could better predict the movement of wildfires.

“Last year’s wildfire season was the worst in our province’s history, and we know how incredibly difficult it was for everyone. Our top priority is keeping people safe, which is why we continue to take significant action to prevent and prepare for wildfires as we head into spring and summer,” added Ralston.

“We know the impacts of climate change are arriving faster than predicted. We will keep actioning the recommendations from the expert task force to make sure we are ready for wildfires when and where they happen.”

Another busy summer ahead

In Comox, no one knows better than Fire Chief Gord Schreiner that fire seasons are getting worse and longer.

“All things are indicating we’re going to be busy again this summer. We’ve been out four of the last five years on deployments, so it’s picking up, and the deployments are longer each time, too,” he told CHEK News.

Comox Fire is one of many on the Island that sends crews to the interior when major fires break out.

“So it’s not unusual that this department will go somewhere. We were in Kamloops last year, Kelowna and a few other spots last year, including Fort St. John,” said Schreiner.

It can respond with an engine, but it would more likely be requested to take one of its Structure Protection Units. It’s a trailer full of wildland firefighting gear, such as pumps, sprinklers, and hoses, enough to protect up to 30 homes.

And a sign of the times is that Comox now has a fire mitigation specialist for the first time.

“One training I’ve recently done is a wildfire mitigation specialist through Fire Smart BC Canada, and that allows us to go into people’s properties to do assessments in terms of giving advice and things they can do to protect their homes in the event of a wildfire,” said Lieutenant Brent Craven.

Officials say there’s still plenty of time for a wet spring to dampen the fire season, but they also say we could see lightning-caused wildfires as early as June this year when they’re normally not seen until July or August.

READ ALSO: Active spring wildfire season may be in store for B.C. as drought persists

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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