It’s only April but parts of BC are already experiencing wildfires.
More than two dozen have already been recorded in BC this month and nearly all of them are classified as human-caused, provincial data shows.
Images of burning grassfires are raising questions about how prepared the province is to deal with the upcoming fire season, after a devastating 2021 that included the destruction of the Village of Lytton.
This week Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Murray Rankin, made efforts to sell his government’s actions to do “better” this year.
“We’ve seen three of the worst wildfires seasons on record in British Columbia occur over the last five years,” Rankin said Tuesday in Vernon.
When asked about his government’s handling of the White Rock Lake wildfire he responded, “We are always learning. These challenges, I won’t say are unprecedented, but the degree of severity and frequency are unprecedented.”
This year’s budget includes $145 million over three years to strengthen BC’s emergency management and wildfire services. In part, to move the BC Wildfire Service from its current reactive model of fire response to a more proactive one. A move that has received mixed reaction from experts.
Rankin said the province is also “learning to do better with communication with Indigenous communities,” something that has been part of discussions in the province for years.
But according to the president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, it’s something that hasn’t happened yet.
“We need to be part of the chain of command,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said. “We have Indigenous traditional knowledge of the land and the wind patterns so on and so forth, so our people have got to be centrally involved in the entire issue of wildfires.”
When asked about the upcoming fire season, he responded with, “I’m deeply concerned, I’m seriously concerned.”
Forecaster Bobby Sekhon with Environment Canada said spring has so far been “a little dry” for the Interior, but June is typically the wetter season.
“If we have a very dry June and we continue that dry stretch for the rest of the summer, than that makes things very dire for wildfires,” Sekhon said. “We’ll have to see closer to June how that shapes up.”
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