The B.C. government strongly supports the efforts of local governments and First Nations to reduce wildfire risks in and around their communities through the completion of fuel management projects, the development of Community Wildfire Protection Plans and the implementation of FireSmart principles.
This work is particularly important in the wildland-urban interface, where urban development borders on grasslands and forested areas.
The B.C. government is working with the federal government and other provinces to support the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy, which was renewed and strengthened in 2016.
The overriding goals of the initiatives listed below are to protect British Columbians from wildfire threats and help make their communities more fire-resilient.
Following the 2017 wildfire season
- As part of Budget 2018, the B.C. government is providing $72 million over three years, specifically to help with the recovery of communities and landscapes that were affected by the 2017 wildfires. This money will also help communities become better prepared for wildfires, through investments in wildfire risk reduction projects.
- This new funding is in addition to the annual allocation for direct firefighting costs, which is set at $63 million for 2018-19.
- Over 1.2 million hectares were burned and about 65,000 people were displaced as a result of the 2017 wildfires. About 2,500 people were forced from their homes by freshet flooding that year.
- The B.C. government commissioned an independent review of the 2017 freshet and wildfire seasons. The resulting report, “Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in British Columbia”, was released May 10, 2018.
- The B.C. government is acting on 30 of the 108 recommendations in the report. An action plan to address all of the recommendations is expected to be completed by Oct. 31, 2018.
- As part of its preparations for the 2018 wildfire season, the BC Wildfire Service:
- is reaching out to key stakeholders and partners to establish or strengthen key relationships with land managers.
- has hired more fire information officers.
- has hired more Type 2 firefighting crews.
Community Resiliency Investment Program
- Since 2004, over $81 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 (UBCM).
- As part of Budget 2018, $50 million is being allocated over three years as part of the new Community Resiliency Investment Program to help communities better reduce wildfire risks.
- This program will replace the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative. It will incorporate two primary funding categories:
- Community Funding and Supports (to help communities and First Nations undertake fire prevention activities on private and public land); and
- Landscape Level Priorities (funding for fuel treatments on Crown land aimed at protecting high-value assets).
Community Wildfire Protection Plans and fuel treatments
- As of June 27, 2018, 337 Community Wildfire Protection Plans were completed by local governments and First Nations. Another 54 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.
Forest Enhancement Society of B.C.
- As of June 25, 2018, the B.C. government has invested $235 million in the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., with over $134 million allocated to date for wildfire risk reduction, reforestation, forest rehabilitation, wildlife habitat restoration and raising awareness of the FireSmart program.
- More information about the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. is available online: http://www.fesbc.ca
- Mitigating wildfire risk is a shared responsibility. British Columbians can play a critical role in mitigating wildfire risks around their homes and properties by undertaking FireSmart initiatives.
- Given the effects of climate change and the increased number of homes being developed in forested areas, B.C. residents need to participate in proven FireSmart activities to help protect their homes and neighbourhoods from wildfires.
- 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 online: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/prevention/for-your-home-community
- Local governments have a role to play in implementing FireSmart bylaws for municipal lands in wildland/urban interface areas.
- FireSmart is the Canadian standard recognized by all provinces and territories. It is based on National Fire Protection Association standards that have evolved over the last 40 years.
- FireSmart is backed by a vast amount of field, laboratory and modelling research. Its methods have been demonstrated time and time again to reduce the risk of losses, under even the most extreme fire conditions.
FireSmart Community Grant Program
- The B.C. government and UBCM launched the FireSmart Community Grant Program in 2015 to encourage more communities to participate in the FireSmart program.
- As of June 27, 2018, over $1.2 million to 146 communities was approved.
- The UBCM 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 are available for the 2018 wildfire season.
- The B.C. government is able to call on over 2,500 private-contractor firefighting resources and a multitude of contingency resources (including those in other provinces).
- In preparation for the 2018 wildfire season, the BC Wildfire Service is procuring 11 contracts for eight-person, “Type 2” firefighting crews (comprised of up to 120 people) that meet the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre’s Interagency Exchange Standard.
- These contractors are used to supplement BC Wildfire Service firefighters and for sustained action support. They will be used in a variety of scenarios, including mop-up, patrol and other support activities.
- 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.
- At the height of the 2017 fire season, 236 firefighting aircraft were working throughout the province.
- Additional national and international resources are available as needed, through mutual aid agreements.
- 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.
- 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 also can drop fire retardant and foam to slow the spread of a wildfire.
- The B.C. government regularly invests in infrastructure and capital upgrades to its fire centre buildings and airtanker bases.
- Recent improvements include:
- In 2017, the new and renovated Cariboo Fire Centre buildings at the Williams Lake Airport were completed.
- In 2014 and 2015, infrastructure upgrades were completed at the Castlegar airtanker base.
- In 2013, the $4.74-million Provincial Wildfire Training Centre and expanded fire zone office was opened in Merritt, a $1.2-million initial attack base and fire zone office was completed in Valemount, and a $3.7-million expansion of the Campbell River airtanker base was finished.
Education and enforcement
- Nearly half of all wildfires each year are caused by human activity, so the BC Wildfire Service puts a strong 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. 7, 2018, the BC Wildfire Service’s Facebook page had over 131,700 followers: www.facebook.com/BCForestFireInfo
- As of Aug. 7, 2018, BC Wildfire Service’s Twitter account had over 46,300 followers: @BCGovFireInfo
- In April 2016, the B.C. government significantly increased ticket fines for 19 different violations under the Wildfire Act and another seven violations under the Wildfire Regulation. British Columbia now has some of the highest wildfire-related violation ticket fines in Canada. More information about these changes is available online at: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/about-bcws/governance/legislation-regulations/summary-of-fines?keyword=fine
- All off-road vehicles are required to have a spark arrestor installed to reduce wildfire risks when operating on Crown land. A spark arrestor is a small screen or other device that is installed in an exhaust system to stop sparks or other exhaust residue from exiting the tailpipe. More information is available online: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018FLNR0044-000479
- 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.