Last summer’s wildfires emphasized that communication cannot be underestimated, said Les Husband, interim Cariboo Fire Centre manager who appeared as a delegation at Tuesday’s regular city council meeting in Williams Lake.
Husband is the manager of the Prince George Fire Centre, but is filling in at the CFC until a new manager is hired to replace Krista Dunlevy who retired this year.
“I think everyone is hoping, if we do get into situations this year, that things will work a lot smoother,” Husband told council during a presentation at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
“We are working through some changes, we hope, that will be better and efficient about getting information out there.”
Coun. Scott Nelson said the public is looking for clear, concise, transparent and real time information.
“The way that technology works, there could be a fire starting on South Lakeside and by the time I get home, I’ve got three e-mails and texts about the fire going on. It’s critical to get the right information out there.”
Husband said they would love to be quicker with the real time information, but they also have some priorities they have to work through.
The BC Wildfire Service already had the opportunity to try some different approaches this season with five fires in Prince George and two around Kamloops.
“We think it’s going to work better,” Husband said, noting the Cariboo, Prince George and Northwest fire centres have all hired full-time communication specialists.
When Coun. Laurie Walters asked about who communicates evacuation alerts and orders, Husband said the fire centres recommend them, but the decision comes down to the regional district or municipality to say yes or no.
Coun. Sue Zacharias asked if there is a plan to develop a fire break around the City.
“Is there ever any talk discussion about drastic logging or prescribed burning that people would see in the city?” she asked.
Husband responded there are different jurisdictions — within regional districts and municipalities and Crown lands – and what treatments will work.
“You don’t necessarily have to burn,” he explained. “I just saw today that Tolko got the permit to do some salvage around the airport, which in my opinion is a good thing.”
Abbot-Chapman report on flood and fire response
The independent report prepared by former cabinet minister George Abbot and Sq’ewa:lsw First Nation hereditary chief Maureen Chapman is a good summary of opportunities to improve and move forward, Husband said.
“There were four recommendations that will mean quite a bit of change,” he said, noting they include establishing emergency centres, training and offering S100 to more people, changing the community wildfire protection funding and more involvement of First Nations.
In the report there are 13 strategic shifts suggested, that are different than the recommendations that will have to be dealt with separately.
“The Government has said it will have something out by October to address the report,” Husband said. “The last time we had a big report was in 2003 with the Filman Report. Anytime somebody from outside can come in and give recommendations is a good thing.”