Climate emergency sparks call to action for wildfire research in heart of B.C. interior
The B.C. provincial government has chosen Thompson Rivers University (TRU) for a $5 million grant that will pay for a new research chair position in predictive services, emergency management, and fire science.
A new research chair, who has yet to be named, will be working at TRU to benefit the province’s readiness for wildfires. The new role will aim to improve forecasting, prevention, and response to wildfires and other environmental emergencies, as well as help to provide more information about the changing nature of wildfires and improve approaches to battling the blazes.
Doug Donaldson, minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said wildfire behaviour is drastically changing.
“Experts tell me that with the climate emergency we are seeing bigger fires, the fuel load is different, the dry out conditions are different as the weather patterns change,” said Donaldson.
He said these changes make the new wildfire research important.
The new work comes on the heels of two record breaking wildfire seasons in 2017 and 2018 when multiple communities, including Kamloops, had to deal with evacuations, and recovery from destroyed homes, forests, and ranges. Those two seasons cost the province more than $1.2 billion.
“Interior communities have worked together to advocate for additional research and capacity to help better understand wildfires in order to protect their residents, infrastructure, and economies,” Donaldson included.
“Kamloops is the ideal location for this research position,” said Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian.
TRU is in the middle of a busy fire region, near Emergency Management BC and BC Wildfire Service operational centers making it the perfect location for this new research chair.
The position is supported by a two year collaboration between the provincial government, the mayors of Kamloops, Kelowna, and Prince George, and the Interior University Research Coalition which includes TRU, University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO), and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).
“This effort shows that by working with various partners, universities can help address the complex issues facing local communities,” said TRU President Brett Fairbairn.
The research is expected to have impacts on fire science all around the world.
To report a wildfire or irresponsible behaviour that could start a wildfire in British Columbia, please call 1 800 663-5555 or (*5555 from a cell phone) as soon as possible.