VICTORIA – The West Coast is on track for a cold, wet June.
Officials say the silver lining is a low fire hazard for the early summer. However, the province noted there are several areas experiencing drier-than-normal patterns, including southern Cariboo, Thompson-Okanagan and Rocky Mountain Trench.
Officials plan to monitor these areas as 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.
Officials plan to 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.
“Last year’s devastating fire season highlighted the importance of wildfire prevention for B.C. communities and, as we saw first-hand in Logan Lake, how it can make a real difference for people’s lives,” said Katrine Conroy, minister of forests, in a statement. “That’s why our government is more than doubling the funding available for wildfire prevention activities like FireSmart and making historic investments to transform BC Wildfire Service into a year-round, more proactive service.”
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.
“First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of B.C. is looking forward to the opportunity to continue serving First Nation communities in B.C., working with our program partners to deliver FireSmart community funding and supports,” said Quentin Nelson, mitigation manager for the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society. “These programs increase community resiliency, reduce risk from wildfire, and build capacity to support these initiatives.”
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.