Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative (SWPI)
- The B.C. government introduced the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative in 2004 to help local governments and First Nations reduce the risk of interface wildfires, where urban developments border on forests and grasslands.
- That year, the provincial and federal governments announced $37 million to help local governments pay for interface wildfire mitigation. In April 2011, the provincial government contributed an additional $25 million to the program. The B.C. government added another $5 million in March 2015 and another $10 million in February 2016.
- Overall, $78 million has been allocated to the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative to help local governments and First Nations significantly reduce wildfire risks around their communities.
- Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative funding is administered by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
Community Wildfire Protection Plans and fuel treatments
- As of June 21, 2017, 311 Community Wildfire Protection Plans have been completed by local governments and First Nations. Another 60 are in progress.
- These plans identify areas at risk and prescribe fuel management projects to address those risks.
- Projects may include: conventional harvesting, prescribed burning, improving the spacing between live trees; removing dead trees; and cleaning up low branches, needles and wood debris that could potentially fuel a fire.
- As of June 21, 2017, completed fuel treatments and risk reduction efforts from all projects covered about 92,300 hectares of land in and around communities that face a wildfire risk.
Forest Enhancement Society
- The B.C. government has invested $235 million in the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C.
- This independent society’s work is focused on wildfire risk reduction, reforestation, forest rehabilitation, wildlife habitat restoration and raising awareness of the FireSmart program.
- These efforts will mitigate the effects of climate change and the impact of wildfires on our communities. They will also complement B.C.’s world-class wildfire suppression capabilities and the ministry’s existing forest stewardship programs, including the Climate Leadership Plan and the Forest Carbon Initiative.
Additional support for local government
- British Columbia has provided $3 million to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities for local emergency planning, which includes provisions for related community firefighter training and the purchase of sprinklers to protect structures. One sprinkler system can protect between 50 and 100 homes.
- The massive wildfires in Alberta in 2016 highlighted the need to assess and protect communities that only have a single evacuation route available to them or whose evacuation routes are susceptible to hazards such as landslides or floods. In March 2017, the B.C. government committed $1 million for evacuation route assessments in areas that could face major hazards in the future, such as wildfires, floods or incidents involving hazardous materials.
- An additional $14 million from the Job Opportunities Program has helped reduce the wildfire risk around 40 communities.
- Although the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative has been instrumental in reducing wildfire risks in many areas of B.C., it’s not the only fire prevention tool available.
- Mitigating wildfire risk is a shared responsibility and local governments also have a role to play in implementing FireSmart bylaws for municipal lands in wildland/urban interface areas.
- Homeowners who live in interface areas can help protect their properties from wildfire threats by using FireSmart principles.
- The FireSmart Homeowner’s Manual was developed to help people reduce the risk of personal property damage due to wildfires. The manual and more information about the FireSmart program are available at http://gov.bc.ca/firesmart
FireSmart Community Grant Program
- In September 2015, the B.C. government and the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) launched the FireSmart Community Grant Program to encourage more communities to participate in the program.
- As of June 21, 2017, $898,390 in funding to 85 communities had been approved.
- The Union of B.C. Municipalities disburses the grants as projects are completed and final project reports are received.
Firefighting crews, resources and training
- More than 1,600 firefighters and support staff were available for the 2017 wildfire season.
- The B.C. government has also been able to call on over 2,500 private contractor firefighting resources and a multitude of contingency resources (including those in other provinces).
- In 2014, the BC Wildfire Service added another airtanker group to its contracted air fleet, consisting of four Air Tractor “Fire Boss” airtankers and one Cessna Grand Caravan bird dog. This group is based in Revelstoke during the wildfire season, but the aircraft can be split up or repositioned to higher-priority locations to respond to potential wildfire threats.
- Capable of working as a land-based aircraft or as a float plane, the Fire Boss can skim up to 3,025 litres of water from a nearby water source in under 15 seconds and be back on its way to the fire in less than 30 seconds. The aircraft can also drop fire retardant and foam to slow the spread of a wildfire.
- At full operational readiness, the BC Wildfire Service has access to 32 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, about 80 ground-attack vehicles and additional short-term contractors. In mid-August, 2017, over 200 firefighting aircraft were working throughout the province.
- Additional national and international resources are available as needed, through cross-border mutual aid agreements.
- In 2016, a $250,000 upgrade to the water supply system at the Cranbrook airtanker base was completed.
- In 2015, the B.C. government provided $5.88 million to construct a brand-new firefighting facility at the Williams Lake Airport for the use of BC Wildfire Service staff and crews. The one-storey, 2,045-square-metre (22,000-square-foot) main building and three upgraded outbuildings is home to the Cariboo Fire Centre’s main office, associated support services, and ground crew and air crew facilities.
- In 2014 and 2015, infrastructure upgrades were completed at the Castlegar airtanker base. This $208,000 project included: the installation of a new main water line to improve the efficiency of water distribution; new connections to the municipal water supply and fire retardant storage tanks; and electrical system and sensor upgrades to replace old equipment and improve airtanker operations.
- In 2013, the British Columbia government opened the $4.74-million Provincial Wildfire Training Centre and expanded fire zone office in Merritt, as well as a $1.2-million initial attack base and fire zone office in Valemount.
- A $3.7-million expansion of the Campbell River airtanker base was completed in June 2013. The renovations provided a larger loading area, electrical upgrades and improvements to the water supply. This allows two airtankers to reload simultaneously and significantly improve wildfire response from the facility.
- In 2010, British Columbia opened the $4.5-million Provincial Wildfire Coordination Centre in Kamloops. This state-of-the-art facility serves as the province’s nerve centre for wildfire response and management.
- Airtanker bases in Penticton, Kamloops, Cranbrook, Castlegar and Williams Lake have all been upgraded since 2006, at a cost of more than $9 million.
- Additional upgrades have been completed at bases in Cobble Hill, Vanderhoof, Fort Nelson, Parksville, Pemberton, Terrace, Puntzi and Revelstoke.
Education and enforcement
- Nearly half of all wildfires each year are caused by human activity, so the BC Wildfire Service puts an emphasis on wildfire prevention, public education and enforcement.
- Public outreach has been significantly expanded to make full use of online resources and social media tools. As of Aug. 12, 2017, the BC Wildfire Service’s Facebook page had over 114,000 followers and @BCGovFireInfo on Twitter had over 35,300 followers.
- During the fire season, up-to-date information on evacuation alerts, evacuation orders, road closures and air quality advisories are available at www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca
- During each wildfire season, the B.C. government runs media campaigns focused on wildfire prevention.
- In 2010, the legal size of campfires was reduced to 0.5 metres wide by 0.5 metres high (about 19 inches by 19 inches) to help reduce the number of human-caused wildfires.
- Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.
Media RelationsMinistry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations