The provincial government is putting more resources into emergency preparedness in B.C.
Premier John Horgan was in Kelowna on Friday morning, where he announced an additional $31 million to the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund (CEPF) for local governments and First Nations.
According to the premier, this brings the total program funding to $69.5 million.
The money will be used to prepare for disasters like floods and wildfires.
“As you all know, the past two years have been the worst in B.C.’s history, and the challenges of a new fire season are upon us,” Horgan said.
Horgan made the announcement at Kelowna’s main fire hall on Enterprise Way.
The province is also investing an additional $19 million for 40 wildfire risk reduction projects, delivered through the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C.
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Thirty-six of the 40 approved projects are for fuel management projects that will reduce wildfire risk within two kilometres of a community.
“We want to make sure that communities have the resources they need so they can take the steps that they need to protect their citizens, to protect property and to protect, ultimately, the spectacular place that people in the Okanagan call home,” he said.
The money will be administered by the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) and distributed to communities in need.
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It will be used for preventative and mitigaton work, such as forest-fuel clean up and shoring up creeks and streams.
The money will also go towards preparedness projects.
“We have, as we all know, an elaborate infrastructure of forest service roads, which are not always in the optimum condition to help with evacuations,” said Horgan.
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Municipalities will have to apply for the funding, something Kelowna’s city manager expects to do.
“I think when the program sort of gets finalized, and we get the details around it, I would expect we would be at the table applying for funding either as a city or region,” city manager Doug Gilchrist said.
“I think we are thinking more regionally now more than I think we ever have in the past as local governments. And whether it is on a regional basis or local basis, I’d expect we’d apply for some of the funding.”
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Gilchrist hopes the emergency preparedness funding will be ongoing.
“There can always be more and it is a big-ticket item that has to continue to get program funding and not one time funding,” he said.
“Hopefully this is a tipping of his hat that maybe there will be some more of that into the future if this government continues on. But it’s definitely necessary as climate change continues to affect all of us, and funding and programming need to expand to adapt to it.”
Kelowna’s fire chief welcomed the additional funds saying it will help the city and fire department continue with mitigation projects.
“It is good to see investment into opportunities for us to further work on prevention and mitigation strategies,” Kelowna fire chief Travis Whiting told Global News.
“You know over the last couple of years, certainly through flooding and historically in this region through wildfires, we have seen the damage it causes and if we can get ahead of that and do some mitigation work.
The CEPF funding includes $30 million to help eligible applicants in local government and First Nations communities build resiliency through structural flood mitigation projects, flood risk assessments, mapping and mitigation planning.
In addition to flood-specific funding, there is also support for resiliency in the face of all emergencies, including funds for evacuation route planning, emergency operations centre and emergency support services training and equipment.