About half of British Columbians were personally impacted by wildfires, while 85% believe more should be done to prepare and prevent them.
That’s according to a new Research Co. poll on wildfires in B.C. commissioned by the province’s General Employees’ Union.
It also revealed over 90% support increased investment in the province’s world-renowned wildfire fighters.
The poll was conducted from October 20 to 22, three weeks after the BC Wildfire Service released its official Wildfire Season Summary for 2021.
According to the summary, from April 1 through September 30, 1,610 fires burned more than 868,000 hectares of land — making it the third-worst fire season on record.
“B.C.’s three worst fire seasons have happened in the last five years,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU.
“That’s millions of hectares burned, billions in property damage and the unmeasurable devastation of lives and entire communities lost to wildfires. It’s no surprise that so many British Columbians have been personally impacted by wildfires or that so many value the work of the wildfire fighters. The question now is, how can we do better in the future?”
Key findings of the poll include:
- Almost nine-in-ten British Columbians (88%) support increasing the compensation for wildfire fighters, given the nature of the job that they do.
- Two-thirds of British Columbians (67%) say wildfire seasons are getting more intense.
- Almost seven-in-ten British Columbians (69%) think the BC Wildfire Service does not currently have enough staff to manage wildfire seasons.
- More than four-in-five British Columbians (85%) think we should be doing more to prepare for and prevent wildfires in the winter months.
“The bottom line is this poll shows that British Columbians agree with what our members have been saying for years,” said Smith.
“If we are serious about protecting our communities, economies, and ecosystems, it’s time to radically rethink our entire wildfire service model—including how we recruit and retain top quality, professional wildfire fighters.”
“As the climate crisis worsens, wildfire seasons are increasing in severity, frequency, and duration. This poll demonstrates that most British Columbians are affected by wildfires and do not believe that there are sufficient resources available for wildfire fighters,” said Mario Canseco, Research Co. president.
In September, the BCGEU launched a campaign calling on the provincial government to create a working group that includes frontline wildfire fighters to enhance the current service model.