BC has been subject to some destructive natural disasters this year, and the BC Government Employees Union (BCGEU) believes we should adjust our employment accordingly.
President of the BCGEU Stephanie Smith said we should be making more permanent positions within the BC Wildfire Service to create more planning and mitigation for the wildfire season, as well as to help deal with other disasters like the recent flooding.
“We have to be better at preparing for wildfire season, preparing for flood season. And there are models around the world that do this already, for example, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, they take what is called an all hazards approach.”
The province saw 1,634 wildfires this year, with 869,253 hectares burned, making it the 3rd most destructive fire season we’ve seen in a ten year span, only being beat out by 2017 and 2018’s fire season.
Smith said the BC Government has already been reaching out to people who were laid off after the fire season.
“As I speak, an email has gone out to our seasonal wildfires and auxiliaries asking if they’d like to be recalled to help with the flooding. We need these workers, we need them all year round.”
Smith said that anyone concerned about a rise in cost for having more full time wildfire staff should take a closer look at some of the current costs.
“Out of Prince George, the Fort Nelson crew basically was 100% turnover at the crew level this season. Now that means that there were no wildfire fighters that have had previous experience and that can in it’s own way create a lot of challenges.”
Smith said the cost for training can add up, and she also said many crews were working lots of overtime as well.
She added that just under 2,000 staff were working for the BC Wildfire Service this year, but only 267 hold a year round position.
The bill for this wildfire season hasn’t come back yet, but 2017 cost $649 million, and 2018 cost $615 million.
Smith said they did a poll, and found that 69% of people believe the BC Wildfire Service doesn’t have enough staff, adding that 84% of Northern BC residents believed that.
She noted that nine out of ten BC residents were also in support of more compensation for BC Wildfire Service workers.
Smith said they’ve met with some of the Ministers in the BC Government as part of their budget submission, and have recommended an increase in investment for wildfire services.