Historic investments help B.C. prepare for wildfire season
By CFF StaffHeadlines News Hot Topics wildfire
June 8, B.C. – British Columbians can expect cooler and wetter conditions in June, which means the fire hazard is anticipated to remain low through the early summer, as shown in the BC Wildfire Service’s latest seasonal outlook.
Despite this, there are several key regions demonstrating drier-than-normal patterns, including southern Cariboo, Thompson-Okanagan and Rocky Mountain Trench. These regions will be monitored closely. The longer-range forecast indicates a shift to above seasonal temperatures for late July and August, which may bring an increased wildfire hazard.
To support wildfire prevention, preparedness and resilient communities, budget 2022 provided $359 million in new funding to protect British Columbians from wildfires.
This is the largest investment in the history of the wildfire service and is helping transform the organization into a year-round service and shift from its current reactive model to a more proactive approach. This includes $145 million to strengthen the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC. This will enable the BC Wildfire Service to focus on all four pillars of wildfire management: prevention and mitigation; preparedness; response; and recovery.
As much as $90 million in new Community Resiliency Investment program funding will also be provided to local governments and First Nations to increase wildfire protection by undertaking community-based FireSmart activities over the next three years. Since the Community Resiliency Investment program was established in 2018, 488 grants to local governments and First Nations have been approved totalling more than $50 million.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) administers the FireSmart Community Funding and Supports program. It processes grant applications in partnership with the Ministry of Forests and the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of B.C. Eligible applicants facing a lower wildfire risk can apply for as much as $50,000, while applicants facing a demonstrated higher wildfire risk can apply for up to $150,000. Communities can apply for funding to cover up to 100% of the cost of their wildfire risk reduction projects.
Funding of $98 million over three years is also provided to fund wildfire prevention work and projects and maintain forest service roads, and more than $26 million in capital funding has been provided to increase capacity, address maintenance needs, and equip firebases for future wildfire seasons.
The province has provided ongoing funding to the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of B.C. to support the inclusion of traditional knowledge, which led directly to the initiation of a Cultural and Prescribed Fire initiative. Working in partnership with First Nations to expand the use of cultural and prescribed burning is critical to mitigating the risk of wildfires. Integrating traditional practices and cultural uses of fire into wildfire prevention and supporting the reintroduction of strategized burning is also a commitment of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act Action Plan.
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