It has been a record-breaking wildfire season across Canada. With crews already working on overdrive, officials say the season is far from over.
These unprecedented times have prompted calls for action, as MP Richard Cannings is calling on the federal government to put together a national wildfire fighting force and a squadron of water bombers.
“As everyone knows this wildfire year has been the worst year in Canadian history and British Columbia history. Right off the bat in April, provinces were overwhelmed with the need for firefighting,” said Cannings.
“I think there is a clear need for a national wildfire fighting force that could be deployed anywhere in the country. A well-trained force and maybe 400 or 500 people grouped in teams of 20 or so that could be sent where they’re needed, and hopefully sent really ahead of time.”
Currently, provinces rely upon additional resources from across the world, as well as the Canadian Armed Forces specifically in difficult situations. However, they are not specifically trained for firefighting.
“We’ve had teams from South Africa, from Chile, from the United States, from New Zealand, from Mexico — well over 1,000 people. I don’t know what the figure is right now,” said Cannings.
“I think we should have our own national force that could supplement provincial forces.”
Cannings went on to say that this call for action is nothing against provincial resources like the BC Wildfire Service, adding that crews are doing what they can but are overwhelmed, especially during an already busy fire season.
“The nature of the game is that wildfires tend to be more intense and catastrophic each year in a different part of the country. And so, provinces can get quickly overwhelmed,” Cannings.
“And some provinces, like the Maritime provinces, haven’t had the need, but with climate change, firefighting seasons are getting longer, they’re starting earlier, ending later.”
Several countries already have a national wildfire force, including Australia which has faced numerous major wildfires in recent years.
“They have a federation like we do, they have state-based firefighting, they have wildfires, just like we do, sometimes much more intense, but they also have a national wildfire fighting force that they use and is available to be deployed wherever it’s needed,” said Cannings.
Cannings went on to say that he believes that in addition to a specialized team, a squadron of water bombers would be beneficial to the country.
“We make these planes in Canada, we should have them available,” said Cannings.
“There are really good crews of commercial wildfire fighting aircraft that we use, that we contract out on top of that. I think we could really benefit with a squadron of water bombers.”
The MP also suggests that more needs to be done when it comes to mitigation work year-round.
“We could, as I say, have these teams trained, they could be used throughout the year to do work across the country in mitigating the possibility of catastrophic fires, by thinning forests around communities in that interface area,” said Cannings.
“Doing things that will help the situation once the fires start. I think it would save money and would save infrastructure, save homes, save lives, and I think it’s something we should really seriously look into.”
There is no word yet on the possibility of a national force, but Cannings says conversations are ongoing.