After the devastating 2021 wildfire season, experts at the University of British Columbia are calling for more proactive prevention this year.
Researchers from the university’s faculty of forestry say climate change is causing more forest fires and making them much more intense.
“We have to recognize that we have to co-exist with wildfires,” said researcher Dr Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz.
She and her colleagues Dr Lori Daniels and Dr Kira Hoffman say people need to start approaching wildfire management the same way we approach other natural disasters, like floods or earthquakes. .
“It really starts with individuals, understanding the risks of where they live, making efforts to adapt their homes and properties,” Copes-Gerbitz said.
The trio suggest assessing your living space by checking whether your roof is fire resistant or checking your gutters for debris.
They also suggest having a suitable evacuation kit ready to go.
From a community perspective, they urge updating building codes, thinning of commercial timber plantings to reduce fuels, and removal of fallen trees.
“These efforts are really important because they help create a line of defense around communities,” Copes-Gerbitz said.
To step up its prevention efforts, the provincial government allocated $359 million in new funding to fight wildfires in its 2022 budget.
This included $145 million to help transform the BC Wildfire Service into a year-round service.
“We are very well endowed at the moment; all of our fire centers are adequately resourced,” said BC Wildfire Service Information Officer Jean Strong.
“There is ongoing training at bases and areas across the province, in addition to crews participating in certain fire smart or fuel reduction projects.”
So far, the wildfire season is getting off to a slow start. There have been 170 wildfires in British Columbia. At the same time last year, there were already 729.
However, as July and August approach, the worst awaits us.
Copes-Gerbitz says it will be up to British Columbians to help firefighters with damage control this time around.
“Any individual efforts that individuals or communities can undertake to assist firefighters in these efforts will be critical,” she said.
The BC Wildfire Service urges anyone who sees a fire to call them immediately or file a report through their app.