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B.C. to get wildfire training and education centre in response to expert task force

April 10, 2024  By The Canadian Press

British Columbia's premier says a training and education centre for wildfire fighters will be established in response to recommendations by a task force that looked into last year's catastrophic wildfires. The city of Kamloops and the Thompson River University campus are seen in Kamloops, B.C., Friday, June 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

British Columbia’s premier says a training and education centre for wildfire fighters will be established in response to recommendations by a task force that looked into last year’s catastrophic wildfires.

David Eby says the centre at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops will be the first of its kind in North America, offering everything from basic wildfire training to post-doctoral research.

He says the design of the program will start this year with plans to launch in 2025.

Eby says the expert task force on emergencies launched last fall has made 31 recommendations, which include increasing the use of new technology such as artificial intelligence to predict fire behaviour.


Other suggestions include expanding wildfire training and prevention programs, improving response co-ordination with local and municipal fire departments and providing more timely, accessible information about evacuations and alerts to residents.

Eby says the costs of implementing the recommendations or establishing the new training centre haven’t been determined.

“Following last summer’s forest fire season, there was broad agreement across government that it was time for us to take a look at what had happened and examine how we could do things better,” Eby told a news conference Thursday.

Canada’s 2023 wildfire season is considered the most destructive ever recorded, with the Interagency Forest Fire Centre reporting 18.5 million hectares of land was burned.

Eby says the scale of destruction was “profoundly concerning” and showed the need to ensure the province kept up with demands on both the Wildfire Service and communities impacted by wildfires.

“Establishing this centre will ensure that we have the people with the skills that we need to respond to this continuing and evolving threat in British Columbia,” he says.

The BC Wildfire Service said in March that forecasters were worried about the potential of another difficult fire season this year, with drought conditions at the end of 2023 reported across much of the province.

The service’s wildfire dashboard shows 107 active wildfires in the province as of Thursday, with two new blazes in the previous 24 hours. It shows there are 90 active holdover fires from the 2023 season that smouldered beneath the winter snow cover, but all are currently considered under control.

A report released by University of Maryland researchers on Thursday says Canadian wildfires were “entirely” to blame for a 24 per cent surge in tree losses worldwide last year.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2024.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2023


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