The BC Wildfire Service is preparing for the upcoming wildfire season in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spokesperson Jody Lucius, sent MyPGNow.com this statement:

“The BC Wildfire Service continues to prepare for the upcoming freshet and wildfire seasons. In response to COVID-19, we are developing protocols related to physical distancing and other precautions to support crews while they respond to wildfires. We are also committed to finding innovative ways to work differently, if necessary, and maintain our ability to respond to wildfires.

Our primary goals in relation to COVID-19 at this time include keeping our staff informed about COVID-19; reducing their risk of exposure; maintaining a supportive, healthy and resilient workforce; and adapting our operations and responses as necessary.

We will continue to hire staff, including firefighters. However, we are implementing an alternative method to complete the placement and training of new firefighter recruits for the 2020 fire season. Smaller groups of new recruits will receive required training at local offices instead of training as a large group at boot camp.

The BC Wildfire Service is monitoring the COVID-19 situation to determine whether it could have an impact on prescribed burning, wildfire risk mitigation projects, open burning, and any related open-fire restrictions. Wildfire activity is currently very low, but as the weeks progress, the BC Wildfire Service will review its options and advise the public if any changes to open burning practices will be necessary.”

Specific mitigation measures:

The Wildfire Service is developing protocols related to physical distancing and other precautions to support crews while they respond to wildfires. They are also committed to finding innovative ways to work differently, if necessary, and maintain our ability to respond to wildfires.

The initial measures being taken to respond to the COVID-19 situation (under the direction of our ministry and the provincial government) continue.

They include:

  • assessing required training and new employee orientation activities (including annual New Recruit Boot Camps, crew leader camp and standard fitness testing) and implementing alternate ways to deliver this training where possible. (This may include training by phone, video, online or in small groups.)
  • postponing face-to-face meetings in favour of meetings by conference call or video conferencing
  • limiting travel, unless an urgent issue must be addressed and alternative means of communication are not practical only engaging in those fieldwork activities (unrelated to wildfire response) that have a low risk of COVID-19 exposure for staff
  • following the advice of the Provincial Health Officer to help protect the well-being of staff and others

In keeping with the guidelines issued by B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, the BC Wildfire Service is reviewing all of its operational training programs. As a result, it is implementing an alternative method to complete the placement and training of new firefighter recruits for the 2020 fire season.

  • Candidates are NOT required to be in Merritt for the New Recruit Boot Camp in the coming weeks. Instead, BCWS will use the following process to place recruits throughout the province:
  • Candidates received an email containing a slide presentation that includes information about the program and a list of locations where fire crews work throughout the province.
  • In the same email, there was a link to an online survey that recruits are required to complete. The information included in this survey will be used to place new recruits into vacancies on BCWS fire crews.
  • Smaller groups of new recruits will then receive required training at local offices instead of training as a large group at boot camp.
  • BC Wildfire Service staff are working hard to fill all current vacancies within the BCWS program throughout the province. While they will place recruits in their preferred locations as much as they can, that will not always be possible. New recruits are placed where they are required throughout the province.