British Columbia's new state-of the-art Provincial Wildfire Coordination Centre will help crews respond faster and more efficiently to wildfires, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell, Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake and Kamloops South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger announced during a grand opening ceremony today.
"This centre is now the hub for wildfire management across British Columbia, with the majority of the province's fire operations housed under one roof," said Lake. "Consolidating our services and building on our record for quick response is just one more way the Province has prepared for the 2010 wildfire season."
The $4.5-million facility contains the province's airtanker dispatch, aviation management and fire weather forecasting operations. It was moved to Kamloops due to the region's high fire activity and close proximity to the Kamloops fire centre and provincial airtanker centre. A video tour of the new building is available online at www.for.gov.bc.ca/pab/media/
"Relocating our core operations from Victoria to Kamloops also gave us an opportunity to innovate," said Bell. "The centre features Canada's only Birddog flight simulator used for firebombing practice. That means air attack officers can now train in Kamloops rather than travelling as far away as California to complete their certification. It's improvements like these that keep British Columbia on the leading edge of wildfire response and management."
The new facility was constructed to meet LEED Gold standards and reflects the Province's Wood First policy to increase the amount of wood used in commercial and institutional construction. It was funded from a $14-billion capital infrastructure program supported by the Province to create up to 88,000 jobs and build vital public infrastructure in every region of British Columbia.
"The grand opening is a fulfilment of our government's 2008 commitment to locate the Provincial Wildfire Coordination Centre in Kamloops," said Krueger. "Construction of the facility supported more than 20 direct jobs for the City of Kamloops, and will continue to yield economic benefits with more than 50 seasonal employees moving to the area each summer."
A $950,000 upgrade to the Williams Lake Airtanker Base is also underway, and improvements to the Castlegar Airtanker Base will be completed within the year.
Since April 1, fire crews have responded to more than 170 fires across the province, 155 of which were person caused. The public is reminded that anyone found in contravention of a burning restriction can be fined up to $345 or held responsible for suppression costs if their negligence results in a wildfire.
To report a wildfire or unattended campfire, call 1-800 663-5555 or *5555 on most cellular networks.
For more information on open fire prohibitions, area restrictions or for updates on current wildfire activity, visit www.bcwildfire.ca