Year-round BC Wildfire Service coverage expected to be up and running by September

The operations director of the BC Wildfire Service anticipates a "sizable" staffing increase, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 50 to 100 more resources for this season.

A fire burns in the Prince George Fire Centre in a previous fire season. The BC Wildfire Service is transitioning to a year-round operations model in 2022. | BC Wildfire Service

The BC Wildfire Service’s new full-time, year-round operations model is expected to be in place by September.

That’s what reporters were told Friday as provincial Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation Minister Ravi Kahlon and BC Wildfire Service operations director Cliff Chapman provided an update on the $145-million transition, which was announced last year.

Chapman said he expects to see more firefighting crews on the ground in B.C. this summer, and the BC Wildfire Service will remain a full-time firefighting operation at the conclusion of the summer fire season, when it would typically largely cease operations for the winter.

“In terms of the overarching plan with $145 million and the full-time service, we’re really looking to try to have that ready to roll out come September, which is historically when some of our auxiliary workforce would be departing,” he said.

“So we would be looking at that permanency to allow that not to happen.”

Chapman said he couldn’t give a number when asked how much larger the BCWS workforce will be moving forward.

“We’re in the planning phase,” he said.

“We want to make sure we get this right, we look at it from the entire province’s perspective — where are the resources needed?”

While he wouldn’t offer specifics, Chapman did call the anticipated staffing increase “sizable.”

“I would say it’s going to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 50 to 100 more resources for this season,” he said.

Kahlon said keeping B.C. communities resilient is an area of focus for the provincial government.

“We know that for a long time people have been saying climate change is coming,” he said.

“Well, we know now that climate change is here, and we’re dealing with the impacts of climate change.”

Kahlon said he’s spoken to people in the Kamloops area and knows last summer’s harrowing fire season is still very much front of mind.

“We’ve learned a lot, and every year we learn a lot and we continue to improve,” he said.

“But having the full-year fire service now, it’s permanent, with $145 million, it will prepare our communities for impacts that we’re expecting given climate change is something that we’re having to live with.”