MLA demands government live up to its wildfire responsibilities

The BC Liberal government has failed in its responsibility to complete the necessary work to protect local communities from wildfire, says Columbia River – Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald.

In Question Period on Wednesday, Macdonald raised his concerns with Minister of Forests, Mines and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson.

“With the recent events in Slave Lake, Alberta, our minds are very much on the dangers of wildfire to many of our communities,” Macdonald said.  “Again we see just how much damage can be done when wildfire sweeps through a community.”

In recent memory, the most devastating interface fire in BC was in Kelowna in the summer of 2003. That event prompted the government to commission the Filmon Report, which contained a list of recommendations to protect communities in future fire seasons.

The government asked Gary Filmon, former Manitoba premier and author of the report, to work quickly so that the bulk of the recommendations in the report could be set in motion before the onset of the next fire season.  But seven years after the release of the report, only 2% of the interface area identified for fuel management has been treated.

“Government has a responsibility to protect communities at risk from wildfire,” Macdonald said. “Treatment that has been done to date has not even begun to provide real protection for homeowners.  The fire season in British Columbia is getting underway, and communities are still being left vulnerable because of this government’s inaction.”

Macdonald said this is an issue that resonates in the communities he represents because all of them are surrounded by Crown lands at risk for wildfire. Some communities, such as Revelstoke, have worked hard to address their portion of responsibility for fuel management, but they can’t make real progress without government doing its part.

Locally, a new report that maps out wildfire risks in Revelstoke has just been released. It includes recommendations for improved infrastructure protection, community education and awareness, wildfire preparedness, fuel management, fire suppression and emergency responses up to and including evacuation. Fuel management recommendations include removing dead materials, pruning trees and reducing tree density in some forests around infrastructure and in strategic locations to reduce wildfire intensity. The project encompasses the Revelstoke Fire Protection Area, which includes portions of the adjacent Columbia Shuswap Regional District, and forests within two kilometres of the Protection Area. Many recommendations emphasize the need for the City, residents and businesses to adopt FireSmart Community practices. (Click here to read about this report and the community meetings intended to address the risks )

“It is time for this government to commit to a new strategy and new sense of urgency to deal with fuel management in the interface forest.”