Canadian Firefighter Magazine

B.C. works with communities to boost wildfire prevention, preparedness

By Government of British Columbia   

Industry News News BC Canada wildfire season fire firefighters wildfires

Apr. 22, 2024, Prince George, B.C. – The Province, First Nations, local governments, municipal fire departments and FireSmart BC are coming together to help B.C. communities prepare for the wildfire season.

Building on recommendations from the Premier’s Expert Task Force on Emergencies, the FireSmart Wildfire Resiliency and Training Summit brings together hundreds of local and municipal firefighters to collaborate and train with the BC Wildfire Service.

“People are feeling the impacts of climate change and longer wildfire seasons, and we know that the only way forward is to work together. Communities bring critical knowledge, skills and relationships to the table, and we’re growing their role in wildfire preparedness,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “The Wildfire Resiliency and Training Summit is a valuable opportunity for hundreds of leaders and first responders from across B.C. to delve into the insights gained from the 2023 wildfire season and better prepare for the upcoming season.”

The five-day event includes two days of collaborative training between local fire departments and the BC Wildfire Service. The training session includes classroom and field work focused on fire line operations, deployment of fire engines, large water-supply operations and overall approaches to structure protection in the wildland-urban interface.


“This year’s Summit theme of ‘recover, rebuild, prepare’ reflects the work done by many communities after last season’s wildfires and the need to keep FireSmart principles in mind when preparing for future wildfire seasons,” said Tanya Spooner, manager of emergency programs, City of Prince George and Premier’s Expert Task Force member. “It is a chance to further the reach of FireSmart messaging, and an apt reminder that the implementation of FireSmart principles is a relatively simple way for individuals and homeowners to reduce the negative impacts of wildfires.”

Following the training session, a three-day conference will explore lessons learned from 2023 and the latest research, technology and programs that will help communities prepare for the wildfire season.

Ahead of the wildfire season, the Province has strengthened community participation in FireSmart BC by improving accessibility, streamlining administrative requirements, and providing more long-term certainty for communities applying for FireSmart funding.

This year, FireSmart BC is offering a one-time recovery uplift of as much as $100,000 for affected communities, in addition to wildfire mitigation funding.

“Following conversations with impacted communities, including with West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund and local FireSmart co-ordinator Bryce Stirling, it became clear that there was a funding gap in the recovery space: specifically funding to clear post-wildfire debris so communities can build back more resilient,” said Rachel Woodhurst, chair, FireSmart BC Committee. “FireSmart BC is proud to offer this recovery uplift for impacted communities on top of wildfire mitigation funding, and we will keep taking action to be responsive to communities.”

The FireSmart Community Funding and Supports program has shifted to an allocation-based model, meaning communities can apply for multi-year funding. Many communities have already taken advantage of this change.

“Our wildfire proved that FireSmart works,” said Jason Brolund, fire chief, City of West Kelowna. “We knew that building an interest in FireSmart as our community rebuilt was going to be key, and that it would take resources and the efforts of people who were passionate about FireSmart. I couldn’t have been more pleased when they announced a short-term increase in funding to support communities that were impacted by wildfire in 2023.”

The Province continues to implement recommendations from the Task Force in real time to help prepare for the upcoming wildfire season, including already announcing key steps this year:

  • increasing the use of new technology to better predict wildfire movement and growth;
  • readying more volunteers to support evacuees;
  • enhancing wildland firefighter recruitment;
  • boosting wildfire-fighting equipment, airplanes and helicopters;
  • announcing a $21-million equipment depot in Prince George, and
  • creating a dedicated wildfire training and education centre at Thompson Rivers University.

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