This year, BC has seen record setting drought, detrimental heatwaves and rampant wildfires that have impacted and displaced thousands of British Columbians.
All of Vancouver Island is currently at a level five for drought extremity while the rest of the province is experiencing either a level five, four or three.
A level five rating means adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are almost certain.
Cowichan River and several other rivers up island have had water restrictions placed upon them to keep industries and certain types of agriculture from using too much water from these watersheds.
With the wildfires, there are 29 on Vancouver Island and 408 throughout BC at the time of this publication.
BC has spent record-setting amounts of money on the wildfire response this year and the wildfire crisis is far from over while the drought persists.
On Monday, September 11th, Premier David Eby released a statement regarding the creation of an expert task force he has created in order to try to tackle these current climate emergencies and to deal with impending ones, such as floods in the fall.
“With the profound effects of climate change, this year’s unprecedented wildfire season has had a devastating impact on people in British Columbia,” said Premier Eby.
“Hundreds have lost their homes, tens of thousands were forced to evacuate and two heroic young BC firefighters tragically lost their lives.”
He said the immediate focus of his government right now is helping the people and communities who have been affected by the crises at hand and the prevention and response to the near-constant series of emergencies related to climate change.
“That’s why our government will be launching the expert task force on emergencies to determine how we can simultaneously better support those on the front lines and help apply the lessons we have learned in preparation for the next emergency,” Premier Eby said.
The task force’s mandate will be to provide advice to increase local volunteer recruitment, to further collaborate with communities and First Nations, to incorporate municipal firefighting and other emergency forces, to deploy enhanced technology and to provide constant support to those on the front lines.
Additionally, they will address the need for more accessible support for evacuees, with specific attention to timely access to short-term financial supports and accommodation.
“This has been the worst wildfire season our province has faced and while we are coping with a historic drought, we must be ready for the risk of severe flooding later this year,” he said.
“These crises are indeed scary for many people and government will be there to adapt and immediately support people, no matter what we face, together.”
The Premier has been visiting wildfire affected areas over the last couple of weeks and has met with many displaced people, first responders, volunteers as well as BC Wildfire Service and Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness staff.
He said following his visits, he has deduced that going forward BC needs to do a better job of leveraging local knowledge and expertise when it comes to preventing and fighting wildfires.
“We owe it to all of those who fought the fires, left their homes behind, and opened their hearts to feed and house evacuees to find ways to support them better as climate disasters get worse and more frequent,” Premier Eby concluded.
For those who want to donate money or time to those who need aid during this time of rampant wildfires, resources are available here.