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Ellis Ross hosts wildfire preparedness event in Kitimat amid national call to action

Event to address rising fire risks and community resilience as national strategy unveiled
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross is hosting a discussion June 12 with a wildfire expert on how to prepare and mitigate risk. (Walter Scherle/Facebook)

MLA Ellis Ross hosted a wildfire discussion and presentation to address the growing concerns of wildfires in Kitimat, emphasizing the urgency of wildfire preparedness June 12. With the weather getting warmer, the region faced challenges similar to those trending across Western Canada, even as early as June.

This local initiative coincided with a recent announcement by Canadian federal, provincial, and territorial forest ministers who signed a national strategy aimed at raising awareness of wildfire risks across the country. B.C. Forests Minister Bruce Ralston, chair of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, described the wildland fire prevention and mitigation strategy as a “call to action” designed to strengthen First Nations partnerships and expand investment in fire prevention.

Ross highlighted the vulnerability of the Kitimat area, characterized by forests along the only access corridor. This, he said, posed a significant wildfire risk to residents of Kitimat and Kitamaat Village. “This situation underscores the need to reassess fire management strategies urgently,” he said.

Stakeholders and representatives were invited to the wildfire discussion at the Kitimat Rod and Gun Club, hosted by Ross with Safeguard training presenter Jeff Kelly, who provided insights on why wildfires are expected to become a more significant issue and what measures can be taken to enhance community wildfire resilience.

Kelly hopes that municipalities, First Nations, and individual households will adopt Safeguard’s strategies to improve their preparedness.  "We're willing to train them. We're willing to line them up with the right gear," he said.

He emphasized the importance of proactive planning and awareness in mitigating wildfire risks at the local level.

"Typically, you're counting on the provincial government and although they have a great priority action approach, what ends up happening is you don't get one fire. You get a big chunk of the province suddenly starts burning up and they have a limited amount of resources," he said.

Safeguard’s strategies include using water effectively at various levels, from small rooftop sprinklers to large-scale water curtains. "Water at all levels is critical. And it starts as small as five gallons per minute--sprinklers on rooftops have been known to save structures--right up to a mass water curtain that uses hundreds of millions of gallons of water that will literally stop any wildfire," Kelly explained.

He cautioned, however, that moving hundreds of millions of gallons in 24 hours has the potential to wash out roads and flood basements, necessitating coordination with the province. “It’s like we’re moving a river. So we take it very seriously and we mitigate those risks while we're stopping the wildfire at the same time," Kelly said.

Meanwhile, the national strategy has set a deadline for 2025 when all jurisdictions will establish prevention and mitigation governance structures and implement targeted wildfire training. A working group of provincial, territorial, and federal officials will oversee the strategy's implementation, with further discussions planned with First Nations and industry representatives.

- with files from The Canadian Press

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