File photo of a B.C. Wildfire

Emergency preparedness fund for wildfires, floods gets $31M boost from province

Premier John Horgan made the announcement in Kelowna on Friday

Communities across B.C. that face of wildfires, floods and other emergencies will now be getting increased support from the provincial government.

While in Kelowna on Friday, Premier John Horgan announced his NDP government will give a $31 million boost to the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund (CEPF) for local governments and First Nations.

This brings the total program funding to $69.5 million.

Horgan explained that in the wake of consecutive record-breaking wildfire and flood seasons, the province is providing more resources to help prepare communities and keep people safe if disasters occur.

“With these investments, we are supporting communities and emergency responders to reduce wildfire risk and better mitigate, respond to and recover from emergencies.”

An additional $19 million will be invested by the NDP for 40 wildfire risk reduction projects in B.C. communities, delivered through the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C.

Wayne Clogg, Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. board chair, said 36 of the 40 approved projects are for fuel management projects that will directly reduce wildfire risk within two kilometres of a community.

“These 40 new projects throughout the province will now have the funding they need to start wildfire risk mitigation work. In many cases, this funding is the catalyst to develop wildlife risk mitigation strategies and conduct treatments on the ground to protect and safeguard their communities,” Clogg said.

The CEPF funding includes $30 million to help eligible applicants in local government and First Nations communities build resiliency through structural flood mitigation projects, flood risk assessments, mapping and mitigation planning.

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In addition to flood-specific funding, there is also support for resiliency in the face of all emergencies, including funds for evacuation route planning, emergency operations centre and emergency support services training and equipment.

According to Doug Donaldson, B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, the new CEPF funding also provides $1 million for Indigenous Cultural Safety and Cultural Humility Training, which will support eligible applicants to provide emergency management personnel with training to partner with and assist Indigenous communities during times of emergency.

“One of the findings of the Abbott-Chapman review was that governments in the past did not do enough to clean up areas around communities, and that increased the risk of catastrophic wildfires,” explained Donaldson.

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The province funds wildfire risk reduction activities through the $60-million Community Resiliency Investment Program and through the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. Wildfire risk reduction activities include fuel management treatments to reduce fine fuels in forests and FireSmart activities that communities and landowners can undertake.

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