As we seem to be over the worst of this year’s wildfires, I think it's important that we take a step back, reflect on what happened this summer, and investigate what we can do to help fight future wildfires.
It's why I sat down with Fort St. John’s Safeguard owner Jeff Kelly after hearing news that a protest had broken out in Burns Lake when 29 trucks full of firefighting equipment and water suppression units belonging to Safeguard were told by BC Wildfire Service to turn around and go home instead of being used to help fight the Babine Fire Complex.
After speaking to him about what had happened and his disappointment that he wasn’t given the opportunity to fully evaluate the region for other areas where his equipment could have been used, Jeff also laid out what he believed to be possible solutions going forward.
Some of his suggestions included opening Type 1 firefighter training to contractors to allow those with local knowledge to help fight wildfires instead of relying on firefighters from out of province or from other countries, having a better understanding of the water delivery systems available, and to work with communities to ensure that they are better prepared for possible wildfires.
What he really wants to see is our local talent better utilized and trained to improve the long-term effectiveness of our wildfire services in British Columbia so that we can become a source to help other jurisdictions.
I've always thought it's important to go out and speak to those on the front lines who have faced the reality of situations like these on a regular basis. To not just rely on data and statistics from behind a desk.
There's no doubt that all of us in British Columbia want to do whatever we can to help those affected by these wildfires and to prevent future loss and destruction.
We need to listen to those who live in these communities, to those who have years of experience on the ground, and to look at what other countries are doing for possible solutions.
I want to once again thank those who have worked so hard this summer to try to protect homes and communities from these wildfires.
It was an honour to be able to present Jeff with one of my challenge coins to show my appreciation for all that he has done for Northern B.C.
Bob Zimmer is Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.