BY BILL PHILLIPS
Carmen Nutter just wanted some answers.
Her 85-year-old father lost his home on the south side of Francois Lake in the Verdun wildfire earlier this year. She wanted answers about how her father will be compensated, obviously, but she also wanted answers to the bigger questions surrounding the two devastating fire seasons in a row, such as why we’re getting bigger fires and why we can’t deal with them before they get out of control.
So she crashed Premier John Horgan’s press conference in Prince George.
“I’ve got a lot to say,” she said, adding the province isn’t doing enough to deal with the “dead forests” in the winter time by having more controlled burns of forest killed by the mountain pine beetle when the snow is on the ground.
She said the B.C. Wildfire Service hasn’t been quick enough to act on fires in the North, a complaint also levied by Nechako Lake MLA John Rustad and Bulkley Nechako Regional District chair Bill Miller.
She says the protecting $2 million homes in southern B.C. shouldn’t take precedent over protecting rural properties in northern B.C.
“Where do people think their ‘organic’ food comes from?” she said.
Nutter’s gambit paid off and she got about a 20-minute audience with Horgan and federal defence minister Harjit Sajjan.
“A tragic story,” Horgan said after the meeting with Nutter. “Her family has been here forever and she has had to see her father’s home go up in flames on an (evacuation) alert, not an order. It’s the lack of understanding of what people are supposed to do that she brought to our attention. I’ve raised these issues with Emergency Preparedness BC.”
He stressed that, once an evacuation order is issued, people have to respect the order.
“If people stay at home it compromises the ability to deliver water, it compromises the ability of firefighters to do their jobs,” Horgan said.
He said he will be speaking to Nutter again.
The province has also been working on implementing recommendations contained in a report penned by former cabinet minister George Abbott following last year’s fire season. The problem, he said, is seeing some of the recommendations implemented on the ground.
“Fuel is being left behind (in the forest),” Horgan said. “We need to address that.”
He said the province was about halfway through implementing recommendations in the report when this year’s fire season arrived.
“Areas where we had hoped to make better progress, (such as) better communications regional districts, Indigenous communities, and the provincial government, have not yet taken hold,” he said. “And that’s a result of people falling back to the practices they understand and know rather than implementing some of the new techniques in the report.”
As for Nutter, she was happy with the meeting Horgan and Sajjan.
“I believe they listened,” she said.