A sign near Ashcroft last summer spells out Carmen Jacobsen’s gratitude after her home was left intact after the Elephant Hill wildfire roared through. KTW file photo

Wildfire review panel pushes preparation as it meets in Kamloops

By Andrea Klassen

Kamloops This Week

The heads of a provincial review of how wildfires and floods are handled in B.C. say there’s a need for more preparation and training in times of calm.

Skawahlook First Nation Chief Maureen Chapman and former MLA George Abbott told KTW prevention, training and the need for better communication have been recurring themes as they begin a provincewide consultation.

The review, which began its public consultations on Feb. 5 with an open house in Kamloops, is tasked with making recommendations to improve the province’s response to fires and floods, as well as its preparation and follow-up for such events.

Abbott and Chapman will submit a final report to Premier John Horgan at the end of April.

“What we need are ideas,” Abbott said.

READ MORE: Protecting the working forest from wildfire (Feb. 5, 2018)

Members of the public can continue to submit their thoughts online at bcflood firereview.ca. More open houses are planned throughout B.C.

Abbott said local participants have raised the need to get governments across the province using the same information standards, rather than the current patchwork of different systems and file types.

Abbott said there’s also a lack of funding to ensure all local governments, particularly First Nations — which only became part of the Emergency Management BC partnership in 2017 — are trained to the same level.

“When response begins, the provincial government’s wallet opens …” Abbott said. “It’s the prevention, preparation and mitigation pieces it’s much more difficult to get reliable funding for.”

Complaints about misinformation on social media and conflicting reporting have also been common, he said.

The review will look for ways to ensure more factual information is being communicated out during fire and flood situations.

Chapman said she has also heard from people who want to highlight good work done during the summer’s wildfires.

“There’s been such an outpouring of people stepping up and doing whatever they can to help people,” she said.

Other Kamloops-specific ideas centred around the city’s often smoky air quality during the fires.

Multiple residents used feedback boards at the open house to call for more comprehensive risk evaluations, mask availability and guidelines for when children should be kept inside at school during periods of bad air quality.



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