The BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) is changing its usual placement and training of new firefighter recruits for the 2020 fire season as a result of COVID-19, according to Jody Lucius, communications and engagement superintendent for the BC Wildfire Service.
“The BC Wildfire Service will continue to hire staff, including firefighters. Assessment is underway for our annual New Recruit Boot Camps, crew leader camps and annual standard fitness testing for returning season staff. Alternate ways to deliver training will be implemented where possible. However, some training programs may have to be delivered in person. In those cases, precautions (such as reduced group sizes) will be taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure.”
Candidates are not required to be in Merritt for the New Recruit Boot Camp in the coming weeks, according to Lucius.
Instead, the BC Wildfire Service 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 the required training at local offices instead of training as a large group at boot camp.
Lucius notes they’re working hard to fill all current firefighter vacancies within the BCWS program throughout the province.
In terms of mitigation, the BCWS 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, according to Lucius.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy meanwhile issued a ban for all high smoke sensitivity zones in B.C. on March 26.
The BCWS is working closely with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to determine if further restrictions on open burning may be put in place.
“Mitigation and prevention work can still occur, without burning, in areas where open burning restrictions are in effect using the many alternative ways to dispose of woody debris. For more information about prevention and mitigation, please visit bcwildfire.ca or firesmartbc.ca.”