Pandemic forces BC Wildfire Service to adapt as it prepares for burning season

10 May 2020

Published by https://www.kamloopsthisweek.com

CANADA – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC Wildfire Service is taking some extra precautions when it comes to preventing human-caused wildfires, including the implementation of category 2 and category 3 burning prohibitions.

“We’re not permitting any backyard burning, including burn barrels, chimeneas, fireworks, those sorts of things,” BC WIldfire Service fire information officer Kyla Fraser said, noting that, although such bans are typical in the spring, the current prohibition did go in earlier than usual, on April 16 this year. Last year, the ban was enacted in mid-June.

Campfires, however, are still permitted.

“I’m not sure where we’ll go with that in the future,” Fraser said.

Day use of provincial parks will soon be allowed on May 14 as B.C. moves to phase 2 of its pandemic response to reopening the economy.

In terms of operations and training at the BC Wildfire Service, Fraser said firefighters were all hired on time.

“I think we’ve surprisingly still been able to do really well in onboarding new staff,” she said.

Many staff are completing other training at home, while new firefighters did their training in their own fire zones rather than travel to a central bootcamp this year.

The service is also limiting its non-fire-related field activity and working from home wherever and whenever possible.

When fire crews hit the ground in the coming months, they will do so with extra precautions, including new protocols limiting how many can travel in the same vehicle at a time and wearing face masks when travelling in close quarters, such as in helicopters.

“We also have had to revisit how we’re going to do fire camps this year. Obviously, that’s a lot of people congregating in one area, so we’re making sure we have enough sanitation,” Fraser said, noting fire camps will be avoided if at all possible, not only for the safety of fire crews, but for that of communities near which they are formed.

“We understand there are concerns, especially in more rural communities, that they might not have a current case of COVID, and where they might be concerned with our staff bringing that into communities,” she said.

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