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More than firefighters: B.C. chief urges home preparation for wildfire season


As the wildfire season ramps up and a pair of evacuation alerts are now in place, one of British Columbia’s top fire officials is making a personal appeal to the public to take some simple steps that could safeguard their homes.

Jason Brolund, the fire chief for West Kelowna, earned widespread acclaim and respect for his clear communication and calm leadership as homes in his community were consumed by flames, and it’s that experience that has him urging his constituents and others to take a few hours to do what firefighters can’t.

“We know from last summer that FireSmart (planning) works, we have proof now where it has saved homes,” he said in a one-on-one interview with CTV News. “And it’s tough to hear, but we have proof where homes are lost because simple things weren't done around those homes, from a FireSmart perspective.”

The FireSmart program was launched several years ago and is helmed by representatives from provincial and municipal agencies working to educate the public about the behaviours, habits and materials that can put their homes and businesses at risk. Cedar shakes and shingles, straw door mats, and woodpiles stored against exterior walls are all no-nos, for example.

FireSmart officials are among the 800 structural and wildland firefighters, provincial and municipal representatives and others who’ve gathered in Prince George for a conference to plan for the upcoming season and train on how best to work together during what’s expected to be another brutal wildfire season after a prolonged drought and exceptionally low snowpack.

“It's pretty clearly off to an early start and that is a concern, that's why we've taken the steps to prepare,” said forests minister, Bruce Ralston. “We've leased more equipment -- helicopters, aircraft -- we've hired more people… We've dramatically changed the policy for prescribed burns and there are many more prescribed burns taking place.”

While the province does its part to prepare, Brolund is hopeful the work of implementing the recommendations of an expert task force will begin soon, because there aren’t any other alternatives.

“We can't stop building homes in our communities,” he said. “And we can’t control the weather, so how can we break the cycle and encourage people to make the changes that have to be made so we can live with wildfire going forward?” Top Stories

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