BC Wildfire Service implements new measures to battle wildfires

Fire season: 'We're ready'

B.C. is ready to go as summer and the wildfire season fast approaches.

Forest Minister Doug Donaldson made the declaration during a media teleconference Thursday morning.

"We have the funding, the expertise, the equipment and the people to deal with whatever is in store," said Donaldson.

Both the ministry, and the BC Wildfire Service, in co-ordination with the provincial health office, have been preparing for the current season with added pressure of new protocols due to COVID-19.

With the new protocols, Donaldson says he is confident the more than 1,700 provincial firefighters and support staff will be able to work safely during the fire season.

Jody Lucius, BCWS Supt. of communications and engagement says those new protocols have been instituted, including:

  • Implementing new sanitization protocols for staff when they are travelling in vehicles, helicopters and planes.
  • Procurement of non-medical masks for staff
  • Updating how fire camps are operating, including providing new equipment, and moving away from the use of multi-person tents
  • Development of five-person crew camp kits that give firefighters additional amenities and allow them to stay in the same place for longer periods of time

The BCWS has also implemented Category 2 and Category 3 fire prohibitions.

Resource management burning has also been curtailed.

"We've done this in order to minimize the amount of smoke in the air, and also to reduce the need for the BC Wildfire Service employees and other first responders from responding to preventable, and unnecessary human caused wildfires," said Lucius.

While the wildfire season, which officially began April 1, has been relatively slow (139 fires reported in the province), Donaldson says this year, more than ever, residents need to take every precaution to prevent human-caused fires.

"These fires are entirely preventable, and divert valuable firefighting resources from naturally occurring fires," he says.

"It's crucial human caused fires don't put unnecessary demand on BC Wildfire Service cress, or expose them to unnecessary risk."

The province has increased the 2020 firefighting budget by about 35 per cent to $135 million, although additional funding is available if needed.

Donaldson says the province has also increased it air fleet of planes and support helicopters.

He says the province's long-term contracted air fleet includes 20 tankers and eight bird dogs.

With those, he says they will be able to drop 15 per cent more retardant and have 115 per cent more skimmer capacity than last year.

With cooler temperatures and precipitation over the past number of days, the current fire danger rating across the province ranges from very low to moderate.

In the Southern Interior, the rating is low to very low at the moment.

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