Village wants province to shoulder wildfire prevention costs

Resolution to be considered by local governments next month

With the area battling some of the worst wildfires in decades, the Village of Burns Lake wants the provincial government to take more financial responsibility in measures to prevent future wildfires from threatening structures and infrastructure.

And it’s doing so through a resolution to be considered next month when delegates from local governments across the province gather at the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention.

At issue is a provincial program called the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative which is managed by the UBCM.

Through the initiative, local governments can receive money to clear away trees which, if they caught fire, could threaten structures, encourage residents to clean up their properties of fuels, train local personnel, develop efficient communications and emergency plans by local governments and generally make residents more aware of wildfire dangers.

But in its resolution, the village points out the result is “the cost, responsibility and expertise of wildfire mitigation on Crown land, areas surrounding local governments and land inside local government boundaries, being shifted onto local governments which is creating significant additional pressure on local government finances and staff resources.”

In that regard, the village wants the UBCM to “lobby the provincial and federal governments to discontinue downloading wildfire mitigation costs and responsibilities onto local governments and First Nations ….. and take responsibility for wildfire mitigation costs on Crown land and areas surrounding local governments.”

The resolution has the support of northern local governments through the North Central Local Government Association but the resolutions committee of the this year’s UBCM convention has not endorsed the village’s resolution.

The resolutions committee did note, in its resolutions book prepared for this year’s convention, there’s a plan afoot to develop a “community-focused funding model” for wildfire mitigation but did not provide any further details.

In its preparation of the resolution, the village indicated current wildfire trends are increasing thanks to climate change and trees killed by the mountain pine beetle making them more vulnerable to fire.

As well as threats to communities and infrastructure, the village notes there are now losses to natural resources, chiefly merchantable timber.

That latter is considered important, particularly for the area’s mid-term timber supply and resulting impact on the local sawmill industry.