ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The premiers of British Columbia and Saskatchewan would like to see a national approach to fighting forest fires, fearing this year’s wildfires are the new normal.
Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall said Thursday he is grateful for the help his province has received from across the country and called for a partnership between the provinces and the federal government to ensure equipment is available where it is needed.
Training for military personnel on fighting fires also needs to be looked at, he said after a meeting of the country’s premiers in St. John’s, N.L.
“We do want our federal government to join with us in ensuring that part of basic training for the forces is firefighting capability and this would help us face down a year like we’ve had, maybe even get a bit ahead of the curve in all of these provinces and territories,” Wall added.
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said her government budgeted $60 million to fight forest fires this year, but it could be looking at a bill of $300 million to $400 million.
In the past, she said ministers came up with a national strategy to share resources but this year B.C. has gone as far as Australia and South Africa to bring in firefighters who are trained to work on difficult terrain.
Clark thinks a national plan is needed because what is happening this year in Western Canada isn’t going to be unusual.
“The other issue that we need to address is the reality that due to climate change, these summers, these long hot burning summers, are not going to be the exception,” she said.
“They are going to be, I think, more commonly the rule so we have to rethink the way that we deal with fires, the way we prepare to deal with fires, because the world is changing, the climate is changing and we are going to have to adjust our capacity to be able to meet those changes accordingly.”
Both premiers would like a national plan to be in place before the next fire season.