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Researcher interviews Cariboo-Chilcotin residents on weather-related emergencies

Sociology researcher interviewing people with stories from 2017, 2018 wildfires, heat dome
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David Champagne wants to hear from Cariboo-Chilcotin residents, emergency responders, and elected officials about their experiences of wildfire and heat-related weather emergencies.

Champagne is a PhD candidate with the UBC department of sociology and is conducting interviews to find out more about how different areas have experienced and adapted to extreme weather events in recent years.

“While recent studies depict how many people were affected by these hazards, we know relatively little about how people make sense of these hazards in their day-to-day lives, how they had to manage, help one another, endure air pollution or heatwaves, or experience an evacuation,” he said.

Both the heat dome which resulted in 619 deaths in B.C. in 2021 and wildfire seasons like those of 2017, 2018 or this year, which has already broken the Province’s previous record for total area burned, all impacted many rural communities with homes destroyed, lives lost, and many displaced. Wildfire smoke can also blanket wider areas, negatively affecting one’s health and limiting outdoor work and recreation due to health risks.

So far, the less urban parts of the province have overall been more impacted than larger centres like Vancouver and Victoria.

For example, in 2018, Victoria experienced six days of smoke which exceeded air quality thresholds, while Williams Lake experienced twenty such days in the same year, according to Environment Canada. This shows a clear discrepancy between the impacts felt in more urban areas of the province to those of rural areas like the Cariboo-Chilcotin, explained Champagne.

The UBC researcher came to the interior to speak to those who have encountered these weather events.

He is looking to hear what inhabitants have lived through during extreme weather events, how wildfires and heatwaves affected their daily lives and how they perceived the municipal, regional, and provincial governments’ response.

His work will hopefully provide greater insight into who are the most vulnerable and help make policymakers more aware of the challenges that many encounter in adapting to extreme weather.

He wants to investigate the gaps between government and emergency services’ recommendations and what people concretely do. For instance, how important is evacuation preparation for residents? Do people avoid being outdoors in situations of bad air quality or of extreme heat? Have some developed health issues related to these hazards?

The project began in 2020 and Champagne hopes to have it finished by next year.

He hopes to conduct interviews in Quesnel, Prince George, and 100 Mile House as well.

He plans to stay in Williams Lake for the month of August to conduct more interviews and had already spent time in Kamloops.

Anyone interested in being interviewed and sharing their experiences with him for the purpose of his research, can contact him via email at: davidch@student.ubc.ca or by phone at: 778-855-5887.

READ MORE: 1 structure lost in wildfire near Kamloops as rain, winds arrive

READ MORE: Wildfire smoke impacting air quality in Cariboo, North Thompson regions



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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

I moved back to my hometown of Williams Lake after living away and joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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