FireSmart BC’s Agencies: First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of British Columbia

FireSmart BC is possible because of the collaboration of a number of agencies. Together, they form the BC FireSmart Committee (BCFSC) and work to better support wildfire preparedness, prevention, and mitigation in BC. 

One of these key members is the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of British Columbia, also known as FNESS. They’re a valuable part of our FireSmart program and provide essential insights into how we can collaboratively better serve our province. 

Who is FNESS?

Within the sphere of wildfire prevention, education, training, and emergency management response and planning, FNESS plays a pivotal role in supporting First Nations communities. 

FNESS collaborates with these communities across British Columbia, working to enhance their safety through comprehensive programs that support local leaders, equip communities, and provide assistance with accessing funding. They partner with leaders to create plans to reduce risk and manage crises in communities, and provide support for communities to become equipped in practical, sustainable ways. 

By creating a network of members across the province, they support the growth of all BC First Nation communities—identifying shared challenges, sharing ideas, developing new strategies, and establishing resource and support networks.

Collaboration with FireSmart BC

FNESS’ involvement at the BC FireSmart Committee level ensures that First Nations communities have active participation, engagement, and access to vital resources and information in the realm of wildfire prevention. 

FNESS specifically helps First Nations communities with: 

  • Questions, feedback, or support regarding the FireSmart BC program.
  • Guidance on FireSmart BC resources and access to funding through the Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) or the FNESS-Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) On-reserve FireSmart Programs.
  • Suggestions on ensuring First Nation perspective and input is included in the FireSmart program.
  • Support for local FireSmart positions working with and for First Nations in BC.

With this partnership, FireSmart is able to better shape our services to suit everyone in BC, and FNESS is equipped with additional resources in their work to serve First Nations communities. 

Core Programs and Mitigation Efforts with FNESS and FireSmart BC

FNESS offers a number of core programs, including mitigation, fire services, decision support, all-hazard response, administration, and preparedness and recovery. FNESS’ mitigation efforts are among their most impactful programs for First Nations communities. They achieve this work through their key divisions:

  • Cultural Burning Revitalization and Prescribed Fire
  • CRI Funding Support
  • ISC Division
  • Wildfire Division: Programs, Training, and Guidance 

Cultural Burning Revitalization and Prescribed Fire

FNESS actively engages with First Nation communities to identify traditional burn areas and collaborates on the development of contracts for prescribed fire plans, prescription development, and burn plan development. They also collaborate with BC Wildfire Service (BCWS), Wildfire Risk Reduction (WRR), and Ecosystem Restoration (ER) programs, participating in the Cultural and Prescribed Fire Steering Committee. In partnership with FireSmart, FNESS delivers prescribed fire training courses, aids in course development for educational institutions, and facilitates community access to funding for mitigation efforts and guidance in establishing Indigenous Forest Managers for improved forest protection.

CRI Funding Support

FNESS takes an active role in supporting First Nations communities to increase fire resiliency. This involves helping communities access the right Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) funds for their specific wildfire mitigation projects. FNESS helps guide the application process, offers technical advice and information about wildfire risks, gives recommendations on creating applications, and provides ongoing support during all steps of the process and project. 

ISC Division

The ISC Division within FNESS’ FireSmart and Fuels program manages the Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) on-reserve programs. These programs aim to help fund projects that protect residential and critical infrastructure for First Nations communities, helping them increase their wildfire resiliency. 

There are three main programs available, each for achieving different goals that align with FireSmart principles:

  • On-Reserve Operational Fuel Treatment Program
  • On-Reserve FireSmart Program
  • On-Reserve Cultural Burning Revitalization and Prescribed Fire Program

Wildfire Division: Programs, Training, and Guidance 

Through the Wildland Firefighter Training Program and the Wildland Fire Equipment Purchasing Program, individuals can gain training to help protect their own and other communities from wildfire. With funding from BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), these training courses meet Type 2 Fire Crew standards and exceed Type 3 requirements. Another program, funded by ISC, complements this training by providing communities with essential equipment, offering reimbursements up to $75,000. The Wildfire Division also supports community collaboration, economic opportunities, mentorship, and training for those aspiring to become BCWS Type 1 Wildfire Fighters, emphasizing safety and preparedness.

The FNESS Team

First Nations communities are among the highest risk for those impacted by wildfires. FireSmart BC recognizes this and is taking additional steps to reach, support, and serve these communities in their fire mitigation efforts. 

To do so, they’ve created an expanded team that operates as part of FNESS, allowing FireSmart BC to better understand the unique barriers and needs of First Nations communities. These positions help ensure that FireSmart materials are supportive, inclusive, and meet the needs of Indigenous Peoples.

We’re excited to introduce this team and their roles. 

Amanda Reynolds, FNESS FireSmart Supervisor. 

Amanda oversees the FireSmart program for FNESS and supports all First Nations with their FireSmart journey, ensuring that First Nations values are represented in the FireSmart program design and implementation. She also leads the design and implementation of the ISC-FNESS FireSmart Funding Program.

Helena Marken, FNESS FireSmart Researcher.

Helena supports research work with Indigenous communities and researchers while pursuing projects and reviewing technical documents to help increase FireSmart accessibility and services. For the past decade, Helena has worked in wildfire in operational communications, as a wildland firefighter, and most recently, in FireSmart research. 

Dan Stevens, FNESS FireSmart Education and Outreach Coordinator. 

Dan supports FireSmart education and outreach within Indigenous communities. With a commitment to inclusivity, he ensures that Indigenous knowledge and perspectives are integrated into all phases of the FireSmart program. Dan’s role also involves co-leading workshops for Local FireSmart Representatives (LFRs), evaluating program initiatives, supporting LFRs and FireSmart Coordinators, and fostering relationships with First Nations, professional associations, and resource agencies to promote FireSmart.

Malina Garner, FNESS FireSmart Home Partners Program Coordinator. 

Malina supports the integration of the Home Partners Program into Indigenous communities, including training Wildfire Mitigation Specialists. Malina is also a volunteer firefighter and previously worked for the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council. Her FireSmart experience comes from her former role as a Local FireSmart Representative (LFR), where she implemented local FireSmart programs.

Further Resources

Continue exploring the FireSmart BC website for more information on how to protect your home and community in the face of wildfires. We have many resources on fire mitigation, as well as programs you can get involved in if you want to take a more active role in furthering our work in BC. You can further explore FNESS and the work they’re doing on their website, get recent updates on their social media, or learn how to get involved through current career opportunities.

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