The 2017 B.C. wildfire season burned a record area, and revealed gaps in preparation for communities. (Black Press files)

B.C. braces for another year of floods and fires

First Nations partnerships, fuel management need work, report says

An independent review of B.C.’s record 2017 fire and flood season has recommended improving the emergency management network with local communities and shifting land management to prepare better for fire.

With flooding already underway in parts of B.C. after a second winter of heavy snow, the review found that large areas of the province lack flood plain maps, or have maps that are out of date due to weather and terrain shifts.

With wildfires, traditional forest management that preserves logging-free views along highways and around communities has been found to increase risk when fires take place. Recommendations include making fire prevention a principle of land management, and establishing area-based forest tenures around communities that don’t have community forests they can manage themselves.

The review was conducted by former forests and Indigenous relations minister George Abbott and Sto:lo Nation Chief Maureen Chapman, appointed by Premier John Horgan after last year’s record season.

Abbott noted that last year’s fire season started on July 7, with a lightning storm in the Cariboo after a long dry spring that started 160 fires in a single day. A similar storm in the Okanagan would have had similar results, and luck spared the region that was severely affected by the fires of 2003, he said.

The large-scale evacuations of communities led to 62,000 people applying for emergency social assistance, using a system that was set up to respond to house fires and similar emergencies. One of the recommendations is to replace the paper-based payment system with electronic registration and payment.

In touring the fire-affected regions, Chapman said she heard “absolute frustration and hopelessness” from First Nations communities about a lack of communication with the provincial emergency system. In some cases, communities weren’t given provincial permission to use the equipment they had.

“Some of the First Nations communities went ahead and did it anyway, without permission,” Chapman said. “There are no reserve lands when a fire or a flood is coming at you.”

B.C. Liberal forest critic John Rustad, who was minister for last year’s floods and part of the record wildfire season, said he’s encouraged by the findings of the report.

One recommendation he said he will be asking Donaldson about is the suggestion of additional carbon tax to pay for disaster preparation.

bc wildfires

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich councillors scurry to ban rat poisons on municipal properties

A ‘small but important first step’ to protect local wildlife, councillor says

No swimming or skating at Juan de Fuca rec centre for now

The Q Centre to reopen starting on July 13

Sidney’s Star Cinema looks to reel in audience with reopening

It’s lights, camera, action — again — for Sidney’s Star Cinema in… Continue reading

Unemployment surpasses historic high in Greater Victoria, tourism hit hard

Hospitality and tourism sectors hurting as pandemic continues

Victoria tattoo shops respond to sex assault allegations against male artists

Carne Tattoo and Painted Lotus Studios respond to allegations

VIDEO: Langford cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Most Read