BY BILL PHILLIPS
Bill Miller has been in the eye of the wildfire storm this summer.
As chair of the Bulkley Nechako Regional District, it’s his signature that is affixed to several evacuation orders given as fires rage in northwestern B.C.
Miller has also been very vocal in his criticism of the response to the wildfires. He was one of several northern leaders attending a short briefing with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Prince George this morning, and he was pleased with session.
“It was a political meeting, because we’re politicians,” he said. “I think it was good. I think Mr. Trudeau understand the predicament. We painted fairly good picture of what was going on on the landscape.”
Miller said he stressed to Trudeau that the ad hoc cabinet committee on wildfires former earlier this week, needs to have a local component.
“With the committee, it needs to be people who are on the ground, who understand what’s going on, understand the changes that need to take place,” he said. “This stuff can’t be buried in bureaucracy. We have to be able to react quickly. Once a fire becomes 20 hectares, in this new normal, this new dry forest, it becomes a monster really quickly. We can’t afford to be chasing our tails.”
He said governments, at all levels, have to be better prepared before the fire season starts and have more assets ready on the ground.
“If there is any take away, I hope that’s the take-away that he got,” said Miller.
Miller told Trudeau that northern B.C. was already “behind the eight-ball” because of the mountain pine beetle infestation, which has already affected the area’s short-term timber supply and, subsequently, the economy.
“What we’re doing right now is cleaning up remnants,” Miller said. “We’re going to have very little left at the end of this fire season. There’s going to be decades of recovery for us, in terms of economics. We really need more than provincial help, we need that higher level of support to re-build our economy.”