Prepare for Wildfire Season: Ottawa Calls on Civilian First Responders for Support

Ottawa turns to civilian first responders as another dire wildfire season approaches

“Public Safety Canada is taking a unique approach to tackling this year’s wildfire season by testing the capabilities of civilian-led first responders and relief providers. Instead of relying solely on the Canadian Armed Forces, the government is expanding its Humanitarian Workforce Program to support non-governmental organizations in responding to natural disasters and emergencies.

## Civilian-Led Response Teams

Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan announced that the pilot program will be rolled out in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, focusing on regions with a heightened level of risk and recent experiences with wildfires. This program will involve organizations like the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, the Salvation Army, Team Rubicon, and the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada (SARVAC).

The Salvation Army will provide essential supplies in high-risk areas, St. John Ambulance and the Red Cross will offer support to northern communities, and SARVAC will assist firefighters near the front lines with various logistical tasks. This collaboration aims to streamline the emergency response process and relieve pressure on traditional resources.

## Calls for Permanent Solutions

While this initiative is a step in the right direction, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh emphasizes the need for a more permanent solution to address the growing threat of wildfires. He stresses the importance of investing in resources and infrastructure for fire prevention, emergency response, and community support to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

As federal officials warn of an above-average fire risk in Western Canada and the North this summer, it is clear that a proactive approach is necessary to combat the escalating wildfire crisis. The record-breaking 2023 wildfire season serves as a stark reminder of the challenges ahead, prompting calls for long-term strategies to protect vulnerable communities and ecosystems.

## A Force of Last Resort

Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, the military’s top operations commander, emphasizes that the Armed Forces should be used as a last resort in response to weather and wildfire crises. While the military plays a vital role in emergency situations, Auchterlonie believes that other resources should be exhausted before deploying troops, highlighting the importance of strategic planning and collaboration between governmental and non-governmental entities.

As we navigate another potentially hazardous wildfire season, it is crucial to prioritize innovation, collaboration, and long-term planning to safeguard our communities and environment. By harnessing the collective expertise of civilian-led organizations and government agencies, we can build a more resilient and effective response network to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and protect those most vulnerable to their destructive force.”



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