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POLL – New poll shows British Columbians support investing in B.C. wildfire fighters

Burnaby (Coast Salish Territories) – A new Research Co. poll on wildfires in B.C. commissioned by the BC General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) reveals that half of British Columbians have been personally impacted by wildfires, 85% believe more should be done to prepare for and prevent wildfires, and more than 90% support increased investment in B.C.’s world-renowned wildfire fighters.

The poll was conducted from October 20 to 22, three weeks after the BC Wildfire Service released its official Wildfire Season Summary for 2021. According to the summary, from April 1 through September 30, 1,610 fires burned more than 868,000 hectares of land — making 2021 the third worst fire season on record. 

“B.C.’s three worst fire seasons have happened in the last five years,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. “That’s millions of hectares burned, billions in property damage and the unmeasurable devastation of lives and entire communities lost to wildfires. It’s no surprise that so many British Columbians have been personally impacted by wildfires or that so many value the work of the wildfire fighters. The question now is, how can we do better in the future?”

Key findings of the poll include:

  • Almost nine-in-ten British Columbians (88%) support increasing the compensation for wildfire fighters, given the nature of the job that they do.
  • Two thirds of British Columbians (67%) say wildfire seasons are getting more intense.
  • Almost seven-in-ten British Columbians (69%) think the BC Wildfire Service does not currently have enough staff to manage wildfire seasons.
  • More than four-in-five British Columbians (85%) think we should be doing more to prepare for and prevent wildfires in the winter months.

“The bottom line is this poll shows that British Columbians agree with what our members have been saying for years,” said Smith. “If we are serious about protecting our communities, economies, and ecosystems, it’s time to radically rethink our entire wildfire service model—including how we recruit and retain top quality, professional wildfire fighters.”

“As the climate crisis worsens, wildfire seasons are increasing in severity, frequency and duration. This poll demonstrates that most British Columbians are affected by wildfires and do not believe that there are sufficient resources available for wildfire fighters,” said Mario Canseco, Research Co. president.

In September 2021, the BCGEU launched a campaign calling on the provincial government to create a working group that includes frontline wildfire fighters to enhance the BC Wildfire Service’s service model.

Results are based on an online study conducted from October 20 to October 22, 2021 among 801 adults in British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender, and region in British Columbia. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is +/- 3.5 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

Link to Factum
Link to Data Tables

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