Interior politicians are slamming the BC government’s wildfire response after a document surfaced suggesting the province knew it didn’t have enough staff for the challenging season ahead.
However, the province is hitting back and arguing claims it is leaving resources on the table are false.
The document was written by a forestry organization and details a meeting between the BC Wildfire Service and the forestry industry in mid-July.
The meeting minutes say there was a call for the “forestry industry to fight fires independently,” as the BC Wildfire Service “does not have enough staff.”
The minutes, written on July 12 before the massive White Rock Lake Fire had even sparked, described the current wildfire situation as challenging, said all BC Wildfire Service staff were currently working and there was a need for “every available resource.”
- What will this winter be like? Grab the hot cocoa — here’s your 2023 forecast
- What was the price of Titan sub search? A look at estimates
- House of Commons denounces claim Christmas stat day is ‘systemic religious discrimination’
- Halifax-area school put on lockdown after student sprays sensory irritant inside: police
The document also says very limited air support was available.
The document was first publicized by a documentary filmmaker who has been covering the White Rock Lake wildfire and shared with Global News.
The chair of the Thompson Nicola Regional District, whose constituents in the Monte Lake and Paxton Valley have suffered significant fire losses, said he’s not surprised by the contents of the leaked minutes.
Gillis believes more could have been done early in the season.
“We’ve known since June that this was going to be a frightful fire season. I get emails daily from private fire-fighting companies from Alberta and Saskatchewan saying, ‘Look, we’ve got all this equipment. We’ve got a thousand people available. Why aren’t we getting any answers?’ They are not being utilized by BC Wildfire,” Gillis said.
“I think there is very little doubt that if some of these very very sophisticated fire fighting apparatuses had been employed in places like Monte Lake a lot of this tragedy could have been avoided.”
The opposition MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson Todd Stone said he has been getting similar messages from contractors.
However, the province categorically denies it is not using all available resources.
Farnworth said the wildfire service has been preparing for the fire season since the beginning of the year and meeting with the logging industry to ask for assistance, detailed in the leaked document, was part of that normal process.
It is standard practice for the forestry industry to be involved in BC’s fire response.
The forestry organization which wrote the meeting minutes said it is not unusual for forestry to fight fires by itself, in communication with the BC Wildfire Service, if the fire isn’t threatening a community.
The province said it currently has 3,849 personnel and 208 aircraft fighting the 267 fires burning in B.C.