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Salmon Arm theatre to host public forum focused on 2023 Bush Creek East wildfire

Wildfire forum planned

A public forum focused on discussing the devastating wildfire which tore through North Shuswap last year is coming to Salmon Arm next week.

The Shuswap Firestorm: a Public Forum is the fourth presentation in a series presented by the North Shuswap Defence Committee. Previous presentations have happened in Celista, at the University of Victoria, and Thompson Rivers University.

The wildfire forum will take place at the Salmar Classic Theatre on April 24 at 7 p.m.

In a press release, Jim Cooperman, North Shuswap environmental advocate, said the event aims to raise awareness about last year's wildfire and look ahead to improving future fire response.

“The goal of the event is to raise awareness of the how and why the fire swept through the community, how the community responded, and to provide the recommendations for the changes needed in how wildfires are fought in the future,” Cooperman said.

“The overall theme will be about the need to prevent what happened last summer from happening again this summer, which may indeed be even hotter and drier.”

Cooperman will open the event with a review of the events of the firestorm and how it devastated the community.

Jay Simpson, Columbia Shuswap Regional District director of electoral area F, will speak about his perspective as a local government representative who chose to remain in the evacuation zone.

Mark Acton, a resident who remained behind to put out spot fires and protect residences during the wildfire, will tell his stories of firefighting throughout the night of August 18 and the days after.

“Mark Acton and his team used water trucks and a loader to battle the spot fires that remained after the firestorm swept through west Scotch Creek,” Cooperman said. “His story is emblematic of what locals refer to as ‘Shuswap Strong,’ which now also represents local resilience in the face of tragedy.”

Retired forester Allan Willcocks will talk about what changes he believes needs to be made to control and put out wildfires.

Cooperman said future fire seasons will only get worse.

“The North Shuswap is one of too many ‘ground zeros’ in the climate chaos battle underway throughout all rural areas across the world, wherever humans dangerously co-exist with trees and brush,” he said. “Drought, rising temperatures and a buildup of forest fuel means more summers filled with smoke, flames, and devastation, especially if government wildfire fighting crews do not improve their efforts.”

The Shuswap Firestorm Public Forum will take place at the Salmar Classic Theatre in Salmon Arm at 7 p.m. on April 24. Admission is free.

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