The province says it has learned from its mistakes and will apply those lessons to the looming wildfire season.
MLA Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Vernon Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu held a press conference Tuesday to discuss what the province will be doing in 2022 to mitigate wildfires.
Budget 2022 provides more than $2.1 billion to help people recover from the devastating floods and wildfires of last year, and to better protect communities against future climate disasters.
The province came under criticism for its handling of last summer's White Rock Lake wildfire, and Rankin said lessons from last year will be applied to the upcoming fire season.
“We are always learning,” he said. “These challenges, I won't say are unprecedented, but the degree of severity and frequency are unprecedented.”
Rankin said climate change has resulted in three of the worst wildfire seasons on record in British Columbia, occurring over the last five years.
“The province is learning to do better with communication with Indigenous communities, who I think were somewhat concerned, it's fair to say, about our early response to that. We have lots to learn. Money is only part of that, it is that ability to work together across communities. A lot of this is about coordination and doing a better job,” he said.
Rankin said at the end of the 2022 fire season, staffers will remain in place that would normally leave.
"There are 400 people working permanently in the wildfire service in our province,” said Rankin. “The objective is to try to do better at planning and working with communities.”
The province will be providing $145 million over three years to strengthen B.C.’s emergency management and wildfire services, including transforming the BC Wildfire Service into a year-round firefighting and risk mitigation workforce.
This will allow both the BC Wildfire Service and Emergency Management BC to add capacity and equipment to deliver proactive services that focus on the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery of wildfires and other emergencies.
A year-round wildfire service allows public safety professionals to complete more fire mitigation work before and after the summer months, and support communities in their FireSmart initiatives.
Over the coming three years, an additional $98 million will fund wildfire prevention work and will help maintain road access to aid in future wildfire response. Budget 2022 also provides $90 million in community grants to complete FireSmart initiatives and fuel management activities that will make homes and communities safer from wildfire risk.
The FireSmart program will be strengthened to help more communities participate in the program.