A BC Flood and Wildfire Review conference in Williams Lake Tuesday garnered positive, and forward-moving feedback, said one of its co-chairs, George Abbott.
Following the 2017 B.C. wildfires costing more than $564 million in direct supression costs, the Government of B.C. commissioned a strategic review of flood and wildfire practices in the province, led by an independent team.
The BC Flood and Wildfire Review aims to examine provincial and local government emergency management systems to determine how the province can improve its governance systems, statutes, regulations, policy and leadership practices and began in December of 2017 and will continue until this April.
The review is focusing on four areas: planning and preparedness, prevention and mitigation, response and recovery.
Abbott, who was BC’s Minister of Education from 2010-12, is co-chairing the review alongside Chief Marueen Chapman of the Sq’ewá:lxw (Skawahlook) First Nation.
“We’ve got another two months here of this, and it’s been an intense and interesting journey,” Abbott told the Tribune. “We’ve met a lot of people from a variety of different events in the province and we’ve had a lot of really constructive feedback on issues about processes and how more people can play into the efforts of fire and flood.”
Abbott said, ideally, government will take the review and make the appropriate changes to policy referencing in areas that have been highlighted to them in multiple points across the province.
“Today we’ve had great discussion with provincial and local governments, the citizens here and one of the big topics has been the dilemma of old growth management,” Abbott said. “Pine beetle, fir beetle has a very high mortality rate and those areas are becoming threats to several communities.
“We now have an opportunity to think about it, act on it and hope government will act on these recommendations.”
He said one of the biggest things he’s learned following the summer’s wildfires is to try to find ways to plug in local knowledge, local human resources, equipment and machinery that can help wildfire suppression efforts.
“Local ranchers, farmers, First Nations — we want them to become allies, not adversaries,” he said. “And hopefully we can find ways to effectively fight fires and floods.
He said the review will be receptive to public submissions right up until the end of March.
“We’re happy to be persuaded to this or that until the end of March,” he said.
Tonight’s conference runs until 8 p.m. in room 119 at the Pioneer Complex in Williams Lake.