The MLA for Cariboo North calls the independent wildfire report released yesterday a step forward on preparedness and recovery.
But Coralee Oakes says there is definitely more work to be done on the actual operational aspects of fighting fires such as how do you do back burns in our area and how do you look at structural protection units when we have some pretty remote rural areas.
She says other gaps are around access roads…
“Throughout the entire wildfire season one of the challenges we did have, whether it was through evacuations or just how people get in and out of communities, or even after 77 days whether it’s the agricultural sector, the cattlemen or industry, what are those resource roads that we utilize that we know we utilize, that wasn’t necessarily identified, it was all focused on Highway 97.”
Oakes says she is also very concerned with access roads right now that have been damaged by flooding, namely those in Nazko, the Narcosli, the Batnuni and Honululu Road, Deep Creek and West Fraser Road.
Another gap in yesterday’s report, according to Oakes, is the resources needed to fight future fires….
“As MLA’s we’ve been raising to all the Ministries and specifically to FLRNO around the BC Wildfire Service. All of us are incredibly thankful for the work that the BC Wildfire Service did and all the front line responders too, but when i asked the question how many incident management teams do we have trained prior to 2016 versus how many we have now, they haven’t invested in any increase. And they were critical components, as well all know. They would manage the fires, and granted we had support from other jurisdictions such as Australia and Ontario, but i can tell you that the quality of the teams that we have in British Columbia, their knowledge of the areas, their knowledge of relationships and people, was critical and i would have liked to have seen more investment in training and increased resources for our BC Wildfire Service, absolutely.”
Oakes says communication was another challenge during the 2017 wildfires.
She would also like to see investment in more cell towers and other investment on infrastructure around communications.