After a record wildfire season in the B.C. interior, Kamloops Fire Chief Steve Robinson is warning policymakers to be “very serious” about climate change.
Briefing city councilors on Tuesday, Robinson said the wildfires that crews battled this summer were “different” from anything he had seen in the past.
“There were things that some of them did this year — rank five, rank six fire at night — that’s not the norm,” he said.
“We have to take this seriously, and as a city and a fire department, we are looking at what we can do to understand that new threat.”
In July, wildfires forced the RCMP to temporarily evacuate their homes in the Juniper Ridge and Valleyview communities.
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At that time, emergency shelters were already full of people who had survived the devastating fire in Lytton, BC.
“We saw (climate change) under the influence of this heat dome,” Robinson. said. “Five or six days plus -47 degrees – everything I’ve read says these events will be more common in the future.”
After the heat dome hit, Robinson said Kamloops Fire and Rescue began meeting twice a day in anticipation of a potential wildfire. Those meetings began on June 29 – two days before the Juniper Ridge fire.
He told city councillors, he believes the communication helped save homes and potentially lives.
Kamloops Fire and Rescue, he said, is now working on improving the speed of its public messaging in tactical evacuation scenarios.
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“One of the things we understood was that we didn’t get the information as quickly as we wanted,” he explained.
“We can have closer coordination of messages … use social media for initial messaging to improve speed and reach the public.”
Robinson said the city of Kamloops will also work with the Thompson-Nicholas Regional District’s emergency operations center when it affects shared audiences.
His remarks come less than a month after a Thompson Rivers University report called for improving the province’s communication about risks before, during and after wildfires.
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The report analyzed the devastating wildfire seasons of 2017 and 2018 and made six recommendations, including ensuring that remote and Indigenous communities have robust communication systems where emergency officials can provide fast and accurate information about wildfires. can relay.
The study’s principal investigator, Michael Mehta, who teaches geography and environmental studies at Thompson River University, said that remote communities include better Internet services, or at least a satellite phone supply to local authorities.
With files from Colton Davis of the Canadian Press and Radio NL