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October 27, 2017 10:30 pm

Call for Renewed Commitment to Wildfire Strategy

Friday, June 10, 2016 @ 6:30 AM

Prince George, B.C- It’s been eleven years since the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy  report coverwas first developed and  while much has been done,   a review   of that strategy concludes says  there  is much more to do.

(click on  image at right to  access full report)

The  review, prepared  on behalf of the Wildland Fire Management Working Group of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, notes  the challenges first identified   just over a decade ago,  remain,  and if anything, are increasing.

According to the report,  making progress on the  strategy “has been slower and more costly than originally envisioned.”  When  first developed in  2005, the strategy estimated it would  need  an investment of $2.3 billion dollars,  but there was  “no  formal agreement established for sharing the costs associated with its execution,  the expectation was that the  federal as well as all provincial and territorial governments would contribute.”  reportgraph

( at right,  the objectives and  projected vs. actual  expenditures  as outlined in the report.  Dollar figures are in millions.-  image courtesy Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy)

While tracking the actual dollars dedicated to  the  2005  strategy  is difficult,  the report  indicates  the only area in which the projected investment  has been met  is in the area of innovation, which includes the  development of smoke forecasting systems and  the enhancement of the  forest fire danger rating system,

The original strategy  identified  climate change and labour  as major challenges.

Climate change is resulting in :

  • decreasing water availability,
  • increasing arid conditions  and
  • shifting of vegetation to more drought-resistant trees and grasslands that are more fire prone.

As for labour,  the report  indicates it is becoming more difficult to find those  who want to  work in the field of wildland fire  management.  The report says  “the declining availability of qualified individuals is driving an increasing reliance on retired firefighters, contractors and municipal or local fire departments.”   There is also a concern  of  stress on workers who  are facing  longer  fire seasons.

While the  costs associated with wildland fires are usually  limited to  the costs for suppression,  the report says that  is just the tip of the iceberg.  Other costs include  loss of merchantable timber,  damage to private property and public infrastructure,  the costs  associated with  evacuation of communities, and those associated with the loss of economic activity.

“Wildfire is not only a forestry issue” writes B.C. Minister of Forests Steve Thomson, “How we prevent wildfires and respond to wildfires is a significant public-safety, public health, First Nation, community and climate -change issue.  Better collaboration is needed between federal agencies and between provinces, territories and the federal government.”

The report calls for  increased investment in innovation,  enhanced prevention and mitigation , enhance the commitment to making  communities FireSmart and  increase  the  infrastructure and labour component  needed to  fight fires.


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