NORTH ISLAND, B.C. – The province is taking steps to help stamp out future wildfires.

The government announced today that 12 people in Campbell River are getting training as wildland firefighters, to help protect B.C.’s communities and natural resources, and, according to a release, “gain skills that could be foundations for rewarding careers.”

North Island MLA Claire Trevena visited  participants on behalf of Melanie Mark, minister of advanced education, skills and training, as they took part in a wildfire crew member training program funded through a provincial program and delivered by North Island College (NIC).

Natural resource management firm Strategic Natural Resource Consultants is receiving $126,000 from the Community Workforce Response Grant (CWRG) program to help train 12 firefighters in Port Alberni and 12 in Campbell River, with training delivered by NIC.

In an interview with the MyPowellRiverNow.com newsroom, Trevena spoke about how vital the skills training will be in helping to preserve B.C. forests.

“We’re investing in people’s training, so people will be able to get the skills they need to be able to fight wildfires,” she said. “Sadly, we’re seeing an increase in the number of fires but we do have people who want to get trained in this area.”

Wildfire instructor Henry Grierson told the MyPowellRiverNow.com newsroom said the training is feeding an increasing demand for wildland firefighters.

“It also is serving a need to increase the training level, the competency level of the people we are sending out, so there is an increase in safety, first of all, as well as an increase in efficiency,” he added. “So these will actually be better firefighters and safer firefighters due to the comprehensive curriculum.”

Meanwhile, Mark said students in Campbell River are taking important steps to transform their lives with skills training by stepping up to protect the province as wildfire crew members.

“This shows how opening the door of opportunity through education can lift up members of our communities as we climb and protect the environment,” she added.

In the course, which started May 6th and ends May 31st, students will receive the certificates and training they need to work as entry level wildland firefighters at strategic or other incident management contractors.

Practical skills and fundamental theory covered in the course include fire suppression, fire behaviour, wildlife awareness and radio operator and power saw certifications.

“Wildfires have a huge impact on our communities and this is one way government is working to prevent and respond to natural disasters throughout B.C.,” said Trevena. “This project will also have tangible and long-term benefits for students. It opens the door to a range of other jobs doing meaningful work in the natural resources sector.”

The CWRG’s emerging priorities stream supports communities undergoing labour market challenges and opportunities, such as industry closures or expansions, or natural disasters like forest fires and floods.

The 2017 and 2018 fire seasons were two of the worst on record in B.C. 

According to the release, the province has “stepped up fire prevention strategies, programs and funding to help keep British Columbians and their communities safe this summer.”

Budget 2019 included a 58 per cent increase to wildfire management funding to $101 million a year, including more crews, more aerial capacity and innovative technology, and a more comprehensive prescribed burning program.