When it Comes to Wildfires, We All Have a Part to Play

Wildfire season is already here. This means we all need to be ready to mitigate the impacts of wildfires and respond to them earlier than usual. If the devastating 2023 season taught us anything, it’s that we can never be too prepared. As we move further into wildfire season, fire professionals, organizations, and residents all have important parts to play in preparing our province. From emergency planning and response to community education and simple household chores, every action we take makes a profound difference. 

Proactive preparation starts with informing residents about this early wildfire season and giving them the information they need to get started on their resiliency efforts. That’s why we created the “We’re Ready. Are You?” campaign and the “Our Part, Your Part” campaign. Both are designed to instill a sense of urgency in residents and communities across the province and empower them to take action before a wildfire is on their doorstep. They also help to clarify the roles that everyone plays during wildfire season, showing how we all need to work together to reduce the potential impacts of wildfires on our homes, our communities, and our forests. 

We’re Ready. Are You?

Now that wildfire season is here, we can’t afford to be idle. Organizations like local firefighting departments, the BC Wildfire Service, the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society, and the Office of the Fire Commissioner are all ready to do their part this year to reduce the impact of wildfires. But they’re not the only ones with an important part to play. 

BC residents need to be prepared as well. What does this look like? Simple landscaping tasks that reduce fuels around your property. Storing combustibles like propane tanks and firewood safely. Having an emergency plan ready in the event of an evacuation order. Every task we complete is a step in the right direction. When we’re all ready to do our part, we stand as a united front of resilience.

Our Part, Your Part

Once everyone is prepared to play their part this wildfire season, it’s important to ensure that all parties understand the details of their role. Whether you’re a wildland firefighter, emergency responder, or a resident with a home in a high-risk area, wildfire resilience is a shared responsibility that we all need to contribute to. That’s why we created the Our Part, Your Part campaign to demonstrate how we can all work together to keep our communities safe. 

What Does Our Part Look Like?

When we say “our”, we’re referring to members of the BC Wildfire Service, local fire departments, wildland firefighters from other jurisdictions, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, and the BC FireSmart Committee. So what’s our part? To serve as the front line of fire suppression, emergency response, and evacuation information.

Two-week work cycles. Shifts that can last up to 16 hours. Getting whatever sleep we can in tents or gymnasiums far from home. Dangerous and unpredictable work environments. Situations that change within mere moments. These are the realities of our roles, but it’s also what we’ve been trained to do. You can expect us to respond to wildfires with various suppression strategies, coordinate evacuation alerts and orders for communities across BC, and support residents with crucial information during this difficult season. 

Our responsibilities are demanding and dangerous, but they’re also fulfilling and essential. We understand the impact our actions have on individual residents, communities, and our province. That’s why every decision we make is guided by training, experience, and a deep commitment to protecting lives, properties, and the environment. We stand together to confront the ever-growing hazards posed by wildfires. Because safeguarding British Columbia isn’t just our job. It’s our responsibility.

Our responsibilities don’t end with wildfire season though. We perform post-fire analysis and reporting to learn from wildfires and better prepare for future emergencies. We’re also in charge of facilitating wildfire resilience at a grassroots level through effective education, community engagement, and in-depth, accessible resources. Our work never ends, but neither does the threat of wildfire. While we’ve got a lot of work to do, the vital efforts of residents make our role much easier to perform. 

You Also Have an Important Part to Play

You don’t need to be a wildland firefighter, structural firefighter, or emergency coordinator to make a difference this wildfire season. A fire-resilient province starts with fire-resilient homes and communities. That means that you, a resident of BC, have a key role to play. While it may sometimes feel like your individual efforts aren’t making much of an impact, the reality is that they combine with the efforts of others and can be the difference that allows homes and communities to survive a wildfire.

So what exactly does your part look like? It all begins at home. This spring, your focus should be on preparedness. Move combustibles 10 to 30 metres away from your home, remove flammable debris (branches, dry leaves, pine needles) from your property, and clean your roof and gutters. These tasks may be simple and straightforward, but they significantly increase the fire resilience of your property and make it easier for wildfire professionals to defend. You can also reference the Begins at Home Guide or our Tips to FireSmart Your Home Infographic to see how you can further increase your wildfire resilience.

Once we move into summer, you can shift your focus to alertness and response. Start by building an emergency grab-n-go bag to ensure that you and your family have everything you need. Next, follow all relevant evacuation alerts and orders. If you’re put on an alert, that means that you need to be ready to leave at any time. This is a good opportunity to pack your grab-n-go bag and perform some tasks from our Emergency Wildfire Preparedness Checklist. If you receive an evacuation order, you are at risk and the time to prepare is over. You’ll need to leave your property immediately and proceed to your designated evacuation route. 

Much like wildfire professionals, your role can continue throughout the year. During the offseason, consider planning how to implement some FireSmart landscaping best practices across your property. This can mean choosing fire-resilient plants through the FireSmart Plant Program, or following other tips found in our Landscaping Guide. You can also get involved with community resilience initiatives such as Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, leading the charge to protect your community. The offseason is also a great time to have a Home Ignition Zone Assessment performed by your Local FireSmart Representative to learn about the specific risks your property faces and how to address them. There’s never a bad time to reduce your wildfire risk.

Our Efforts Matter More Than Ever

As we continue to feel the impacts of climate change, wildfires are only going to increase in intensity and frequency. That makes our collaborative resiliency efforts more important than ever. Whether you’re a fire professional on the frontline or a resident tending to tasks around your home, every step we take matters. By working together and embracing our shared responsibility, we can build a fire-resilient future for British Columbia and protect what matters most. 

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