More wildfire resilience needed in B.C., University of Victoria report says

More needs to be done regarding wildfire mitigation and prevention in B.C., says a recent publication out of the University of Victoria.

The publication, named State of Wildfire in B.C., was co-authored by Doug Donaldson and Andrea Barnett under the umbrella of the POLIS Wildfire Resilience Project.

Global News caught up with Donaldson, who is a senior analyst with the project and involved with the Centre for Global Studies at the university.

“It’s the first publication of this project. We’re hoping through a deep dive into science, legislation, governance and policy, (we) can make wildfire resilience better in B.C. and put B.C. as a leader in the world in wildfire resilience,” Donaldson said.

Click to play video: 'Wildfire situation eases in northeastern B.C., but Fort Nelson evacuation orders remain'

Wildfire situation eases in northeastern B.C., but Fort Nelson evacuation orders remain

He said while B.C. has done a good job evolving its response to wildfires, more needs to be done regarding wildfire mitigation and prevention.

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“(Right now) we have a situation where the fires can become catastrophic,” Donaldson said.

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“(B.C. needs to) remove some of that fuel from the forest floor, whether it’s through cultural or prescribed burning (or) whether it’s through finding other economic means to do something with that extra fibre (like) the pulp industry or even burning it for electrical generation.”

The research analyst acknowledged the price of prescribed burnings, especially with 29 million hectares of high or extreme threat areas, would be too costly, but if it was a societal approach could at least begin to bring that threat down.

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“Thirty-nine million hectares is the size of Germany … there’s not enough dollars to actually reduce the risk substantially,” he said.

“We need to have a whole societal approach, including industry. There are a couple of measures we have discussed that could be implemented (like) bringing back broadcast burning which is a technique after (logging) harvesting where the remains are burned on the forest floor.”

Donaldson said B.C. is prescribed-burning about 5,000 hectares a year. A small drop in the bucket when compared to the 39 million hectares of dangerous land.

The report has also recommended a new “whole of government” approach where the province is aligned with municipalities and regional districts around B.C.

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“We’ve spent in 2023 $1 billion on direct wildfire fighting costs in the province, and that’s more than the budget of 14 of 24 ministries,” Donaldson said.

“So what that would look like as a first step is a provincial wildfire strategy. Right now, it’s only the BC Wildfire Service that holds that strategy.

“This would be a strategy that involves the whole of government, every ministry knowing their roles and responsibilities, and also accountability to the outcomes around what they should be responsible for.”

Donaldson finished by saying steps taken now are extremely important for B.C.’s future and wildfire seasons to come.

The BC Wildfire Service said on its online dashboard Saturday afternoon that 121 fires were burning in the province.

Rainy weather in and around Fort Nelson had aided the fight against both the Parker Lake fire burning 2.5 km west of the town and the Patry Creek holdover blaze 25 km north of the community.

Evan Peck with the BC Wildfire Service said a low-pressure system brought much-needed rain on Wednesday and Thursday, along with cooler temperatures and lower humidity, making for “excellent” conditions for fire suppression efforts.

Click to play video: 'Fort Nelson pets impacted by wildfire brought to safety'

Fort Nelson pets impacted by wildfire brought to safety

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