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Editorial: Act now to get ahead of next wildfire season

The time to think about reducing risk from wildfires is long before they happen
A water bomber dumps onto the Mount Seymour wildfire.

Not too many years ago, summer used to be a time of peaceful relaxation.

But as we head into what is the unofficial start of fall this week, it’s likely that calm and quiet aren’t what spring to mind for a lot of British Columbians as they look back on July and August.

Drought, frightening wildfires, smoke and closures of swaths of the Interior at peak tourist season are increasingly the reality, thanks to our changing climate.

What has been slower to change, however, is our collective reaction to these events and willingness to prepare.

That’s something that we need to address. Difficult conversations about how to mitigate risk and better prepare should start now – not next summer. Government has a role to play but so do we as individuals.

Much of the work to reduce wildfire risk falls on homeowners in interface zones – through use of non-combustible construction materials and managing of potential ‘fuel’ and vegetation – yet to date there is limited ability to force people to take action, except in cases of new construction.

That could change as government grapples with how to get ahead of potential crises. Taking action to forestall a problem is always more efficient than dealing with the aftermath.

We expect more people will also take an interest in concepts like FireSmart, having seen the example of West Kelowna.

While no amount of preparation can completely eliminate risk, we owe it to our neighbours to literally take a look in our own backyards with a view to everyone’s safety.