With the 2021 wildfire season well underway, the B.C. government has stepped up with more than $20 million to reduce risks around communities and support new research into predicting wildfire activity.
“Over and above the $22 million already provided, we are adding another $15 million as part of our commitment to help make communities more resilient to wildfire threats,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We are also funding a $5-million endowment to create a fire science research chair at Thompson Rivers University. The goal of these commitments is to make communities safer, reduce wildfire risks and research new ways of mitigating wildfire risks.”
Mike Flannigan, an award-winning researcher and leading expert on wildfire behaviour and landscape fire modelling, has been named as the British Columbia research chair in predictive services, emergency management and fire science at Thompson Rivers University, starting in July 2021. Flannigan’s research goals include developing methods to help predict when and where extreme fire weather may arise, where wildfire starts could be expected to occur under those conditions and exploring the development of early warning wildfire notification systems.
“Too many British Columbians have seen the devastating impacts of wildfires and the havoc wreaked on people’s lives, homes, local economies, wildlife and the environment,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “We’re fortunate to have the experience of Mike Flannigan assume this new research chair, the first of its kind in B.C., and how this unique and timely research will benefit other post-secondary institutions through knowledge exchange.”
Flannigan will work directly with BC Wildfire Service staff to address challenges related to predicting wildfire activity and behaviour, which will enhance their ability to prepare for and respond to wildfires in the province. His appointment also aligns with a recommendation of the 2018 Abbott-Chapman report to increase and sustain funding for wildland fire research.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development contributed $3.2 million of the funding for the research chair endowment, with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training providing $1.8 million.
The other $15 million is through the Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) program, which provides grants to 118 local governments and First Nations to help fund their wildfire risk reduction initiatives. Since the CRI program was established in 2018 with a $60-million investment from the B.C. government, 366 grants totalling over $37 million have been approved though the program’s FireSmart Community Funding and Supports category.
Mike Flannigan, British Columbia research chair in predictive services, emergency management and fire science –
“This is an exciting opportunity to collaborate with the BC Wildfire Service, emergency management agencies and academic institutions. The wildfire landscape is becoming more challenging and demanding due to climate change, so I’m excited to help shape the future of wildfire prediction and analysis as part of a collective research effort.”
Will Garrett-Petts, professor and associate vice-president research and graduate studies, Thompson Rivers University (TRU) –
“The appointment of Dr. Flannigan as research chair reflects three years of collaborative planning in partnership with the City of Kamloops and the provincial government, and TRU is deeply grateful for this investment in the region and in our university. We know that effective disaster response requires government-funded scientific research around climate change, wildfire prevention and flood management. Dr. Flannigan’s appointment enhances TRU’s research capacity in these areas, and it provides a heightened level of leadership from a world-class scholar and expert in wildland fire modelling, prevention and mitigation.”
Brett Fairbairn, president and vice-chancellor, Thompson Rivers University –
“TRU is delighted to welcome Dr. Mike Flannigan as the British Columbia research chair in predictive services, emergency management and fire science. His award-winning expertise will enable TRU to become a national and international leader in the study of wildfire behaviour and landscape fire modelling. The important work of the Interior Universities Research Council, including the University of Northern British Columbia and University of British Columbia - Okanagan, has helped make this news possible.”
BC Wildfire Service: www.bcwildfire.ca
More information about the FireSmart program (including the “FireSmart Begins at Home” manual and home assessment checklist) is available online at: www.firesmartbc.ca
A backgrounder follows.