Following the devastating 2021 wildfire season, experts from 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 wildfires and causing them to be much more intense.
“We have to recognize that we need to coexist with wildfires,” said researcher Dr. Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz.
She and her colleagues Dr. Lori Daniels and Dr. Kira Hoffman say that 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, taking efforts to adjust their homes and their properties,” Copes-Gerbitz said.
The trio suggests evaluating your living space by checking if your roof is fire-resistant or checking your gutters for debris.
They also suggest having a proper evacuation kit ready to go.
From a community perspective, they urge updating building codes, thinning commercial timber plantations to reduce fire fuel, and clearing fallen trees.
“Those efforts are really important, because they help create a line of defense around communities,” said Copes-Gerbitz.
To step up its prevention efforts, the provincial government allocated $359 million in new funding for fighting wildfires in its 2022 budget.
That included $145 million to help transform the BC Wildfire Service into a year-round service.
“We’re very well-resourced 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 zones around the province, in addition to those crews taking part in some fire smart or fuel reduction projects.”
So far, wildfire season is off to a slow start. There have been 170 wildfires in BC At this time last year, there had already been 729.
However, heading into July and August, the worst lies ahead.
Copes-Gerbitz says it will be up to British Columbians to assist fire crews in limiting the damage this time around.
“Any individual efforts that people or communities can take to help firefighters in those efforts will be key,” she said.
The BC Wildfire Service is urging anyone who sees a fire to call it in immediately, or to file a report through its app.