November 28, 2022

Vancouver, B.C. (unceded  xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territory) ---  What must we change about wildfire management now to thrive in the future? On Tuesday, December 6 from 5 PM to 7 PM, SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue is facilitating a dialogue around the rapidly changing paradigm of wildfires in BC.

“The fires we are experiencing now are not the fires our grandparents experienced, nor are they the flames our grandchildren will contend with,” says Yolanda Clatworthy, the centre’s program manager for the event. “We are at such a critical tipping point in our collective experience with wildfire. There is a real need to take urgent action now and acknowledge the extent that this paradigm has shifted. This is our attempt to hold space for that dialogue to begin in earnest.”

Since 2017, British Columbians have experienced three of the worst fire seasons in our recorded history, resulting in more than $2 billion in wildfire suppression costs over a five-year period. In the 2017 wildfire season alone, more than 65,000 British Columbians were evacuated from wildfires. The 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons together resulted in the burning of an estimated seven per cent of the entire provincial timber inventory. 

“The frequency, scale, and severity of mega-fires in the past five years is unprecedented and they are fuelled by growing climate impacts, altered forest landscapes, and the forced removal of Indigenous Stewardship and good fire from these lands,” says Clatworthy. “Decision-makers at all levels have tough calls to make. It’s important that the public understand the trade-offs we face. It is no longer a matter of fire or no fire, but how we choose to apply and engage with fires that otherwise are sometimes becoming uncontainable.”

She notes that the Dec. 6 event—featuring co-keynote speakers Joe Gilchrist of Interior Salish Firekeepers Society, and Paul Hessburg, Senior Research Ecologist with US Forest Services—will be a participatory event, encouraging guests to be active in the conversation and share their perspectives. Members of the public are invited to join in-person at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue (580 West Hastings Street, Vancouver) or online. A reception will follow for those in-person.

“We have much to learn from Joe Gilchrist and Paul Hessburg.” says Clatworthy. “We’re looking forward to bringing our genuine curiosity to learn and illuminate solutions together.”

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