BCGEU - B.C.'s Union since 1919 B.C.'S UNION SINCE 1919

Unusually warm spring renews focus on wildfire fighters

Only four months into the new year and British Columbia has already seen 143 wildfires by April 19, affecting over 13,000 hectares. The Prince George Fire Centre saw 37 new fires start in one day in April. The spring river melt is already well underway, weeks earlier than normal. High winds and temperatures reaching 28 degrees in the Peace River region has produced tinder-dry conditions.

As we enter into what may be another record forest fire season, it is important to acknowledge the professionalism and dedication of B.C.’s wildfire branch, with its 250 full-time and over 1,000 auxiliary wildfire fighters who work tirelessly to protect the people of our province, as well as the administrative service workers who keep the branch functioning efficiently.

“Wildfire fighters are the people who enter danger zones when everyone else is leaving for safer ground,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. “Firefighters do the hard, hot, dangerous work to protect the lives and assets of British Columbia citizens. And we shouldn’t forget the incredible administrative workers who come back season after season, and are still considered auxiliary workers.”

“The B.C. Wildfire Branch reports that they confront an average of 2,000 wildfires each year, and that 92 per cent of those fires are contained within the first 24 hours. That is an amazing record, and British Columbians should be proud of the work our members do on their behalf.”

To put it in perspective, the first significant wildfire event this year occurred some three weeks earlier than in 2015 and Environment Canada is forecasting an 80 to 90 per cent chance that B.C. will be hotter than average through June.

“Close to half of all wildfires are started by people,” says Smith. “Every one of us has a responsibility to protect our communities, by observing provincial fire regulations and using common sense outdoors. People’s lives and livelihoods depend on it.”