In Thursday’s estimates debate for the Ministry of Forest and Range, Minister Bell admitted that he couldn’t list the British Columbia communities that were considered at-risk for wildfire, nor could he provide a ministry definition of what factors would be considered in determining a community’s risk.
The Ministry of Forest and Range is responsible for spearheading the implementation of the recommendations in the Filmon report, the government’s response to the summer of 2003 when over 2,500 wildfire starts destroyed over 334 homes and forced the evacuation of over 45,000 people.
The Filmon report, a 100-page document written by former Premier of Manitoba Gary Filmon, clearly lays out a plan to reduce the risk to communities from interface forest fires. The Filmon report plainly states that the responsibility for the implementation of wildfire-proofing measures sits with the provincial government.
“In the government’s Throne Speech in February 2004, it was announced that all Filmon’s recommendations would be acted upon, and most of them would be in place for the 2004 fire season,” said Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA and Opposition Forest Critic Norm Macdonald. “And now in 2009, following another terrible summer of wildfire, the Minister of Forest cannot even answer a simple request for a list of communities that are considered at risk for wildfire.
“I represent communities that sit in the forest, that are supposed to have this fire-proofing work done. And the public would presume that the work that was promised in the 2004 Throne Speech has been done. Instead this government has absolutely failed to implement the Filmon report recommendations and as a result communities across the province are still facing the highest risk from wildfire. Most residents in my area can look out their kitchen window and see Crown land forests that have not been managed to reduce interface fire risk.
“We just can’t wait any longer to do the work that needs to be done. It just can’t be acceptable for the minister to ignore this dangerous situation that could result in the loss of homes and businesses in our communities.”