Thousands sign online petition calling on minister to provide more resources for B.C.’s wildfire season | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Thousands sign online petition calling on minister to provide more resources for B.C.’s wildfire season

An air tanker drops retardant on a fire in West Kelowna Tuesday afternoon.
August 22, 2021 - 4:35 PM

Thousands have signed an online petition calling for the minister of public safety to reevaluate B.C.'s wildfire suppression strategy but the B.C. Wildfire Service says it's using all the resources it has in its arsenal.

“We need to expand our fire fighting force so that it is capable of containing wildfires that are in close proximity to communities, towns and cities across our beautiful province. The number of destructive wildfires across our province has increased dramatically over the last decade, causing unnecessary risk to the lives of our farmers, citizens, and firefighters,” writes an anonymous author of the B.C. Wildfire Petition, found on change.org.

The petition is calling for an increase in resources for air support as well as support staff and specialized structure protection crews.

As of Sunday, Aug. 22, the petition addressed to Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth, Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations with the B.C. Wildfire Service and the B.C. Legislative Assembly has gathered more than 7,500 signatures.

“Our province needs to expand our firefighting force to react aggressively with a minimum amount of bureaucracy to directly suppress all threatening wildfires,” according to the petition.

However, B.C. Wildfire Service information officer Jean Strong said the service is using all the resources it has available.

“The 2021 wildfire season in B.C. has been one of the most active wildfire seasons we’ve ever seen. We’ve had days with more than 40 starts in a day with periods of weeks in a row… and we’ve seen really aggressive wildfire behaviour and we’ve been using resources fully,” she said.

With the number of wildfires burning in other provinces this year, the wildfire service has been unable to pull as many resources from other parts of Canada, she said. In response, the wildfire service has been utilizing resources provided by forestry partners.

A wildfire between Adams Lake and Sun Peaks was held and was actioned mostly by a local heavy equipment company, she said. “Really it was their crews that brought their status to being held.”

The wildfire service has also utilized more industry partners this year than in years past, she said.

With aircraft, there are enough resources, but with ground personnel there have been times where the service would have liked to see more, she said.

“COVID is a challenge too. When we’re looking at bringing in international resources that adds another layer of complexity in terms of making sure these people are coming in and leaving in a safe manner during the pandemic,” Strong said.

A number of crew members are also going back to the school in the fall, so the wildfire service is working with those in the forestry industry to fill that need, she said.

The Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth also said in a press conference last week that money is not an issue.

READ MORE: 'Money is not the issue,' says B.C. minister as fatigue catches up with firefighters

 


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