The Lynn Orstad Award: Women in Wildfire Resiliency

Lynn Orstad was a community leader and a driving force for better wildfire risk management. She began her career in emergency management, continued working with local community groups and fire departments, and eventually retired as Chair of FireSmart Canada. Throughout Lynn’s career, and even in her personal life, she remained passionate and dedicated to building community and furthering education around wildfire resiliency. She was also a mentor to many young women who sought to build a career in wildfire risk reduction. When she passed unexpectedly in 2021, FireSmart BC, FireSmart Alberta, and Co-operators established the Lynn Orstad Award to honour her memory and pass the torch to other female wildfire advocates.

About the award

The annual Lynn Orstad Award: Women in Wildfire Resiliency was created to continually appreciate and elevate the female leaders who work so hard to make our communities safer—and our fire management better. It recognizes women in BC or Alberta who have made significant contributions to furthering wildfire resiliency in their community, agency, or province. Each year, the award will be presented in person at the Wildfire Resiliency and Training Summit and the winner will be featured on our website. The award recipient will receive a personalized award and a $1000 grant towards furthering wildfire resiliency efforts focused on increasing education and community engagement—fundamental elements of Lynn’s work and achievements.

Lynn’s lasting legacy

Lynn devoted her life to helping others. Working for more than thirty years in disaster and emergency management, she brought passion and leadership skills to many parts of the world, during some very trying times.

In 1992, Lynn worked with women and children in Florida who had lost everything in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. Soon after that, she worked for the Red Cross (Red Crescent Societies) providing humanitarian relief for people seeking refuge from the Bosnian War, and then, with the Federal Government in Sarajevo, she helped victims of crime in that country. Later, Lynn worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to support those fleeing Rwanda. In the early 2000s, she represented Canada on the UN Expert Group in Natural Disasters.

After traveling the world helping others, Lynn began her career in fire and disaster relief planning with the Fraser Valley Regional District. She worked with community groups all over BC and continued, even in retirement, to assist and offer her vast expertise. Lynn valued collaborating with Indigenous Peoples and was able to work with many bands over the years, creating deep mutual respect and friendships along the way. She even went on to create two Justice Institute of British Columbia diploma programs: the Incident Command Management System and the International Emergency Management program.

How to nominate a worthy candidate

Among many traits, Lynn was hard working, transparent, inclusive, innovative, and creative. She brought energy, enthusiasm, and countless ideas to help the communities she served. The Lynn Orstad: Women in Wildfire Resiliency Award will allow Lynn’s passion and meaningful work to carry on through the recipients. If you know a woman in wildfire who shares the same values that Lynn embodied as a female trailblazer in wildfire risk mitigation, then you can nominate them today (or until nominations close on February 27th) by visiting the award page and completing the nomination form. 

Nominations will be reviewed by a working group made up of representatives from FireSmart BC, FireSmart Alberta, and Co-operators.

Nominees will be judged on the following criteria:

-The impact of their advocacy efforts on advancing FireSmart’s mission
-The inclusivity and reach of their community engagement and education Initiatives
-The extent to which the nominee is a trailblazer in wildfire resiliency
-The degree to which the nominee reflects Lynn’s values

The award recipient will be announced in May and be presented at the 2023 Wildfire Resiliency and Training Summit.

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