New technologies — including drones, night vision goggles and field laptops — are part of a host of measures the province will use during the 2019 wildfire season.
Doug Donaldson, the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, was in Kamloops today (March 19) to discuss the upcoming fire season and the recent increases to the province's firefighting budget.
In February, as part of the provincial budget, the baseline for firefighting efforts was increased from $64 million to $101 million, though last year more than $500 million was spent fighting the flames.
The base budget increase will help in a variety of ways, Donaldson says.
"The uplift in the budget by 58 per cent on direct fire response means more boots on the ground in every region," he says. "It means...initial attack crews getting to fires earlier, it also means increased air support and longer (flying) seasons."
He calls the increase in response capacity "the most substantial move" for the forthcoming season, though there are other projects.
During the media event, he offered a list of projects the province is currently working on:
- Joint training workshops with forest industry this spring to increase their involvement in wildfire response
- Expanding the use of the industry equipment strike team model throughout the province to support initial attack efforts
- Work with the office of the fire commissioner on an expanded structure protection program, which will provide additional resources in rural regions and wildland/urban interface areas
- Delivering more than 40 wildfire training sessions for fire departments throughout B.C. led by structure protection specialists
- Developing a predictive services section at the B.C. Wildfire Service that will use the best available science, technology and human expertise to assess fire weather and fire behaviour
- Working with the academic and business communities to develop new firefighting tools and techniques through the B.C. Wildfire Service's research and innovation program
He also notes there was a recent symposium in Kamloops on wildfire prevention, and that new technology is being brought in to assist, including night vision goggles for firefighters, drones to help map fires and laptops used in the field to help manage information.
Donaldson says the province is also going to work with First Nations to learn more from their traditional knowledge of the land.
The ministry's ramped up efforts were spurred by the 2018 report from former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott and Chief Maureen Chapman that looked at fires and flooding in B.C.
- with files from Brendan Kergin, Kamloops Matters