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South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP calls for national wildfire service

MP Richard Cannings is calling for a national wildfire service
South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings speaking in the House of Commons. (Parliment of Canada)


A year after leading an emergency debate in the House of Commons, MP Richard Cannings is calling for a national wildfire service. 

Cannings, who represents the South Okanagan - West Kootenay region and serves as the NDP Emergency Preparedness and Climate Resilience critic, sent a letter on June 10 to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to once again call for more federal involvement in battling wildfires. 

"The current ad-hoc process of mutual aid where jurisdictions with quiet fire seasons provide human resources and material to those parts of Canada with active fire seasons no longer works," reads the letter. "No part of Canada will have a quiet wildfire season this year and for many years to come."

So far B.C. has already seen more than 200 wildfires and an estimated 322,939 hectares of land scorched in 2024. The 20-year average is 434,160 hectares burned. 

In 2023, the province saw a record 2.83 million hectares burned.

While there are mutual aid responses from other provinces and international firefighting forces, Cannings has said that is not enough. Even relying on the Canadian Armed Services is untenable to Cannings. 

"Firstly, it detracts from the military preparing for its primary mission of defending Canada," reads a part of Cannings' letter. "Finally, as Chief of the Defence Staff

General Wayne Eyre recently admitted, that there is simply insufficient personnel to meet the increasing need to respond to natural disasters like wildfires."

To address the lack of provincial and national resources for fighting wildfires, Cannings is calling for the establishment of a national, civilian wildfire-fighting force. 

That force would be trained, equipped, and stand ready to deploy to communities in need. 

The Prime Minister's office has yet to comment. 

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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