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B.C. to open first-of-its-kind wildfire training, education centre in Kamloops

Eby says the centre was among recommendations from a task force after the 2023 wildfire season
Premier David Eby Thursday (April 4) announced that Kamloops would host a fire training and education centre at Thompson River University, the first of its kind in North America. (Barbara Roden/Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal)

Kamloops will host a first-of-its-kind North American school for wildfire training and education.

Premier David Eby announced the facility Thursday morning (April 3) at Thompson Rivers University, where he was joined by Forests Minister Bruce Ralston.

Eby said the facility, a partnership between TRU and the BC Wildfire Service, will offer a wide range of subjects, from basic wildfire training to post-doctoral research in fire behaviour to create a full range of expertise, with students being able to earn credits that count toward an undergraduate degree.

Program design will start this year and new students will start training at existing facilities in 2025 with plans underway for a state-of-the-art building, whose costs are not known yet.

“This centre will ensure that we have people with the skills that we need to respond to this evolving threat in British Columbia,” Eby said.

Ralston said the facility will attract students from around B.C., Canada and the world.

“Thompson Rivers University and Kamloops are a perfect training ground for people interested in wildland fire fighting,” Ralston said, noting it is home to the Kamloops Fire Centre covering the southern portion of the province as BCWS’ provincial headquarters.

Ralston said the centre also enhances BCWS’ training capacities. BCWS, meanwhile, will transition some of its existing training programs and courses into the centre. It will eventually offer more than 1,000 workshops per year by 2028-2029, translating into 10,000 course registrations, Ralston added.

The centre is among what Eby called the “flag-ship recommendations” of the task force established after last year’s record-setting wildfire season. It affected 2.84 million hectares. It also destroyed or partially damaged 600 residences. Almost 49,000 British Columbians received evacuation orders and 137,000 received evacuation alerts. Six firefighters lost their lives.

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Overall, the task force made 31 recommendations organized around key themes, which were released Thursday. They include enhancing the use of current and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence; better planning for the incorporation of local resources in responding to wildfires; and modernized and enhanced delivery of emergency support services, including post-wildfire support.

The province has already announced the implementation of several recommendations, with funding for them already in this year’s budget. They include hiring more firefighters, including more from rural and remote regions of the province; expanding the available fleet of fixed-wing-aircrafts and helicopters; and purchasing additional equipment along with other measures designed to improve prevention of fires.

Eby also stressed that B.C. will have the financial resources as the wildfire season unfolds.

Thursday’s announcement comes as the province prepares for what officials say could be a challenging fire season, a point underscored with a wildfire deemed to be out of control burning south of Kamloops near Merritt. Eby used his opening remarks to underscore the seriousness of the situation.

“In the the last three, we have seen two of the worst forest-fire seasons our province has seen and the trend is clear and profoundly concerning,” Eby said. “The snowpack is much lower than normal, many parts of the province are at the highest level of drought and the fire threat is very profound,” he said.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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