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TNRD director calls for review of wildfire response and preparedness

An aerial view of the White Rock Lake wildfire southwest of Westwold, July 20, 2021.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/BC Wildfire Service
September 27, 2021 - 6:30 AM

A Thompson Nicola Regional District director has called for a review of the wildfire response this summer as he wants to make sure the region is well prepared for the next fire season.

Director Ward Stamer would welcome more fuel mitigation and fire smart tactics ahead of the wildfire season, but his biggest concern is the response when wildfires start.

Stamer, who is also the Mayor of Barriere, said he's prepared to "ruffle some feathers."

READ MORE: TRU study calls for changes to way wildfire service communicates risk and crisis information

"To get tough answers you have to ask tough questions," he said to "If you look at last five or 10 years, it's not getting better, it's getting worse... If we don't plan ahead, we're gonna have a serious problem."

Stamer spoke to on the phone as he was driving through the Monte Lake area. It was his first time in the area since the White Rock Lake wildfire.

If Thompson-Okanagan residents want to know what to expect from upcoming fire seasons, they should drive Highway 97 from Falkland to Monte Lake and back, he said.

He raised his concerns at the regional district board meeting on Sept. 23 after reading a letter sent to the regional district from a member of the public.

READ MORE: Kamloops Fire Centre sees record-breaking number of hectares burned this year

The letter, written by Wendy McLean, first questioned B.C. Wildfire Service response to the Sparks Lake wildfire, but went on to question the timeliness of evacuation alerts and wildfire preparation through prescribed burns.

"I realize that there may be big-picture issues to which locals on the ground may not be privy to," McLean wrote. "But I have seen too many things that make me doubt management lately."

Upon reading McLean's letter, Stamer started a conversation among regional district directors, which turned into plans to create a "task force" to investigate wildfire responses and preparedness.

Stamer would also like to personally thank McLean for her letter.

READ MORE: Indigenous logger hopeful traditional burning practices will return to Westbank First Nation

He said there have been many accusations floating around about government responses to the wildfire season, especially the White Rock Lake wildfire, but it is important to meet those accusations with an investigation.

As the regional district prepares a notice of motion for the next board meeting before any investigation starts, Stamer believes there should be two parts to the regional district's approach.

"One phase is tactical info on what occurred," he said. "The flip-side is what we're doing for planning. What can we do as a region, and province, to prepare for next time?"

READ MORE: Logan Lake has written the Fire Smart playbook for other cities, towns to follow

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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