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Learning to live with wildfires should be at core of prevention efforts, experts urge

As wildfires are predicted to worsen, we must learn to ‘co-exist’ with fires

With B.C. wildfires fires only predicted to get worse in the coming years, a panel of University of B.C. experts is calling for a more proactive approach to wildfire management.

After the three worst fire seasons on record occurred over the last five years, learning to live with wildfires should be at the forefront of prevention efforts, the group said in a news release Thursday (June 23).

“This means changing our ways of thinking and recognizing that we should approach wildfire management the same way we approach preparing for other natural disasters like earthquakes or floods—we don’t try to fight them; we proactively plan for the eventuality,” said UBC forestry researcher Lori Daniels.

Planning strategies should include policy that prioritizes risk reduction like prescribed burning, a traditional Indigenous practice.

“We need to consistently and meaningfully support Indigenous-led land stewardship at all levels,” Daniels said. “This includes reintroducing cultural burns to establishing a national Indigenous fire stewardship group in Canada.”

Along with the disruption of Indigenous stewardship, policies of fire suppression and climate change have changed the forests so they burn stronger and hotter.

Since the start of 2022, there have been 170 wildfires in B.C., according to provincial stats.

The panel is recommending more investment from the government to build FireSmart infrastructure. This includes everything from fire-resistant roofing to diversifying landscapes to be less fire-prone.

The researchers caution that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, but educating yourself can make all the difference.

“We are living in a new era of wildfires, and so we must think about how to co-exist with fire,” Daniels said.

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