Smoke from the Gustafsen Wildfire in 2017. File photo.

Most B.C. residents didn’t feel their city was prepared for wildfire season: report

Respondents split on communication effectiveness

A new survey by the B.C. government suggests that less than half of British Columbians felt their community was prepared for a future wildfire event prior to the 2017 wildfires.

A survey by BC Flood and Wildfire Review online engagement that was completed by 929 individuals found that only one-third of respondents felt like their city or town had all the necessary resources to battle what became the most devastating wildfire season in B.C.’s history.

Two-thirds of respondents provided feedback on wildfires only. The vast majority of the remaining correspondents commented on both flood and wildfire events.

Related: B.C. braces for another year of floods and fires

Responses weren’t much more positive looking forward. Respondents were asked how vulnerable they felt their community, neighbourhood or residence is to future wildfire events. On a scale of one to 10, with one being not at all vulnerable and 10 being very vulnerable the average of responses was eight.

On a personal level, however, respondents responses were more positive, with three-quarters having a plan to act on an evacuation alert or order. Furthermore, more than three-quarters have access to fire insurance and nearly eight out of 10 were familiar with FireSmart activities. This included clear excess debris, branches and trees immediately surrounding structures (nine out of 10), mowing lawns and keeping field free of flammable materials (eight out of 10), and fire resistant building materials (six out 10). Half of respondents also recognized the importance of working with their neighbours and to plant fire-resistant trees, bushes and plants.

When it comes to protecting communities from fires, just over three-quarters of respondents agree that their community could benefit from prescribed burning: fewer than one in 10 disagreed.

Respondents were split on communication, with just over half disagreeing that wildfire information was communicated in a timely manner and almost five in 10 disagreeing that wildfire information was communicated accurately and consistently. More information was also desired for areas outside urban centres and for those not well connected to the internet and social media.

On the flooding side of things, nearly half felt their community was unprepared prior to the 2017 floods while they rated their vulnerability as seven out of 10 on average.

However, nearly two-thirds did not have a plan to act on an alert and or order and nearly one third did not have access to insurance for flooding and a fifth didn’t know about their access.

In descending order, the most responses came from people from or near Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Quesnel, Kamloops, 108 Mile Ranch, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Vernon, Clinton and 70 Mile House. Remaining communities had fewer than 15 responses.

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