Province takes early action to prepare for wildfire, drought season (

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Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness

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Ministry of Forests

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Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship

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Keeping communities safe from wildfire

In advance of this year’s wildfire season, the Province is taking action with communities to strengthen planning, prevention and preparedness, as well as response and recovery efforts.

To support this work, the Premier’s Expert Task Force on Emergencies established in September 2023 has been collaborating with ministries, allowing them to action recommendations in real time.

Strengthening the BC Wildfire Service and enhancing wildland-firefighter recruitment:

The impacts of climate change are leading to increased wildfire activity. The government continues to take action to expand the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) into a year-round organization.

  • Since 2022, the BCWS has seen a more than 55% increase in permanent full-time staff, with further expansions planned.
  • Boosting hiring for the BC Wildfire Service again in Budget 2024, with another $38 million to support stable, year-round resourcing, including fire-crew leaders and front-line staff who provide structure protection, prevention and risk reduction, and wildfire land-based recovery.

In response to recommendations from the expert task force, BCWS has taken significant steps ahead of the 2024 season to strengthen pathways for participation in wildfire response, specifically for applicants in rural and remote communities, and to support more firefighters to work in the local areas they know best, including:

  • Expanding the wildland-firefighter hiring window and working to reach more potential applicants. As a result, the number of applicants was the highest in two decades and doubled compared to 2023.
  • Attracting more applicants and leveraging their local knowledge by encouraging people to indicate where they would like to work in the province. 
  • Expanding First Nations bootcamps to further assist in protecting First Nations communities, with a dedicated training and recruitment model for First Nations communities, following successful pilots in Cariboo Fire Centre.

Securing more equipment and aircraft:

Government continues to build on previous years’ investments in expanding equipment ahead of the 2024 fire season.

  • This year, the BC Wildfire Service will continue to upgrade its existing aviation fleet to include additional plane and helicopter agreements. This is supported by $56 million through Budget 2024. There will be an emphasis on diverse and modern aircraft that can meet the challenges of B.C.’s expansive and rugged landscape.
  • Acquiring two more mass water-delivery systems that can be used for fire suppression and in flood operations around the province.
  • Establishing a new equipment depot in Prince George to support northern operations, with $21 million in Budget 2024.
  • Securing more structure-protection units to protect buildings, infrastructure and communities from fire.
  • Investing in more pumps, fire-camp equipment, safety gear, and medical and hygiene equipment.

Deploying new technologies and innovation:

In advance of the 2024 wildfire season, B.C. continues to deploy and expand the use of new technologies to support firefighters and aircrafts to tackles fires more efficiently and effectively as follows:

  • Introducing wildfire predictive technology that can produce real-time wildfire behaviour predictions based on information coming from the field. In 2023, BC Wildfire Service staff helped ensure 80% of fires were contained to five hectares or less. With this expanded level of intelligence, the BC Wildfire Service can even more proactively respond to wildfires, giving people more time to act during an emergency. This is aligned with feedback from the Premier’s Expert Task Force on Emergencies and follows last year’s successful trial of the software.
  • Continuing to trial new night-vision technology and provide training to wildfire aviation staff to provide additional tools to BCWS’s active night-time firefighting operations.  
  • Acquiring more drones and remote cameras to assist in preparedness, detection and response. 
  • Upgrading BC Weather Stations to support forecasting fire conditions and outlooks.

Stepping up prevention work:

  • Since 2017, more than $400 million has been invested in wildfire prevention through the BC Wildfire Service, FireSmart initiatives, community grants, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC and the First Nations Emergency Services Society.
  • In 2023, the BC Wildfire Service worked with partners at the Forest Enhancement Society of BC to treat approximately 9,500 hectares through a range of fuel-management approaches, including cultural and prescribed fire, almost 2000 hectares more than in 2022. The BC Wildfire Service continues to work with partners to ensure more land near communities is treated.
  • There are 61 cultural and prescribed-burn projects planned for 2024, and 23 cultural and prescribed-burn projects were completed in 2023.
  • Budget 2024 provided $60 million for the Forest Enhancement Society of BC to continue industry and community-focused wildfire-risk reduction and fuel management.
What to know about strengthening drought preparedness

In advance of this year’s drought season, the Province is actively working to strengthen drought preparedness and planning.

In addition to Budget 2024 commitments, over the last several years, the Province has taken important action to address challenges resulting from climate change and to build drought resilience to support communities, businesses and wildlife, including:

  • Government is updating Drought Response Plan and setting up regional tables so that communities, local sectors and water suppliers can use their local knowledge to develop local solutions.
  • Early communications are taking place with water licensees ahead of the drought season.
  • The ministries of Agriculture and Food, and Water, Land and Resource Stewardship are holding a series of in-person workshops in more than 30 communities to help farmers around the province to plan and prepare for potential drought and increase familiarity with water access and usage practices.
  • Expanding the Agriculture Water Infrastructure Program with $83 million to help B.C.’s agricultural producers improve water management and water supply for crops and livestock. This includes support for more efficient irrigation technology and infrastructure to improve water availability and storage, which will benefit stream flows, fish populations and support more sustainable food production.
  • Launching new water-metering pilot programs in 21 communities ($50 million) to pilot new tools to better gauge water use and identify leaks, so we’re not losing a drop of the water we need.
  • Supporting healthy fish populations through:
    • nearly $288 million over seven years from the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund to support restoration projects for Pacific salmon and other priority wild fish stocks to help support abundant fish populations people rely on; and
    • $15 million for the Pacific Salmon Foundation and First Nations Fisheries Council to help conserve and restore the abundance of Pacific wild salmon in British Columbia.
  • Supporting communities in preparing for the risk of natural disasters related to climate change with $369 million since 2017 through the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund.
  • Supporting projects that strengthen and improve the health of watersheds in B.C. with $100 million through the Watershed Security Fund. This builds on the $30-million commitment announced in Budget 2022, and will continue to improve B.C.’s watersheds and build on the success of a previous $27-million investment in the Healthy Watersheds Initiative (HWI) under the StrongerBC economic plan.
  • Strengthening local governments and agriculture resilience with $513 million over three years through the Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy.
  • Helping replace the Cowichan Lake weir to improve water storage and management of outflows ($14 million).
  • Increasing the storage capacity and management of environmental flows at Saint Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island ($10 million).