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Officials in hard-hit region call for review of B.C.'s wildfire response


Officials in B.C.'s Shuswap region are adding their voices to a call for an independent review of how the province handled a devastating wildfire season.

The board of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District voted unanimously to endorse the demand at its meeting last week.

“I fully support this motion and it is already something requested verbally,” Kevin Flynn, board chair, said in a statement.

“When emotions are not so high, we need to talk about improvements and the things that were done right.”

The Bush Creek East wildfire tore through the region in August, forcing thousands from their home and destroying hundreds of structures. The blaze grew by 20 kilometres in 12 hours and the BC Wildfire Service described it as one of the fastest-moving and destructive wildfires ever seen.

People who defied evacuation orders to stay behind were highly critical of the provincial response, saying they had been abandoned and questioning if enough resources had been allocated to fight the fire.

The call for review initially came from Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer, who published an open letter to the province late last month.

"With the unprecedented wildfires throughout our Province in 2023 that are destroying more land, homes, and infrastructure than ever before, it is important for the government of British Columbia to recognize its responsibility in analyzing each fire and their respective crew responses in order to learn and be able to improve future wildfire outcomes," he wrote.

Stamer noted that such a review was done after the 2003 wildfire season, describing the lessons learned as a result as "invaluable." He also stressed the need to begin the review as soon as possible in order to make any necessary changes in time for the 2024 season.

In weekly news briefings since Stamer's letter was issued, provincial officials have been asked several times if such a review will be launched and have not committed to doing so, but have not ruled out the possibility.

The call for review is expected to be a topic of discussion this week at the convention of the Union of BC Municipalities. Top Stories

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