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ICLR tells B.C. inquiry forest fire risk can be mitigated


December 10, 2003   by Canadian Underwriter


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Speaking at the provincial review into B.C.’s “firestorm 2003”, the forest fires that caused extensive damage to several areas of the province this summer, the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) highlighted why forest fire risk is growing and how it can be managed.
“B.C. is growing increasingly vulnerable to wildfire damage,” says Paul Kovacs, executive director of the ICLR. He notes that a combination of factors have led to this vulnerability, including greater population in more remote areas, global warming causing more lightening strikes and droughts, and the decades of active fire suppression which have increased the “fuel” – fallen trees and underbrush – for forest fires in some areas.
But there are strategies the province and its residents can use to mitigate the risk, he adds. He advocates a three-pronged approach public education, financial incentives for property owners to manage the risk, and better land use practices.
Kovacs notes that many homeowners are not aware of what they can be doing to reduce the risk of fire damaging their own property and must be educated and encouraged through tax incentives and other means to take steps to reduce this risk. As well, governments must make an effort to control the number of people who live in “interface” areas, which are not well served by traditional firefighting resources. Lastly, governments need to make wildfire management a priority, allocating funds for prescribed or controlled burns, firefighting, fire detection and emergency preparedness. “In most of these areas, Canada is among the best in the world, nevertheless we did experience significant losses last summer and the threat continues to build each year so we must provide the resources to do even better in the future.”