Mitigating Wildfire

The Mitigating Wildfire Initiative facilitates dialogue and collaboration to identify and advance solutions that address the fundamental changes happening in wildfire risk and management in British Columbia. 

Our collective experience of wildfire is shifting in a critical way. It is no longer a matter of fire or no fire, but rather a question of how we will have our fire. Land use decisions, a century of aggressive suppression and historic banning of cultural burning have deprived fire-dependent landscapes of healthy, regular burning for 150 years. Further, climate change impacts are exacerbating wildfire risk, contributing to more frequent and severe fires.

Out-of-control mega fires are catastrophic to humans and to ecosystems. They threaten communities, health, livelihoods, conservation areas, cultural assets, and industries such as forestry. They further jeopardize our future through staggering carbon emissions (bad fire years emit triple BC’s annual emissions) that in turn accelerate future climate risk. 

Our purpose is to support dialogue and collaboration among governments, Indigenous Peoples, local communities, rights-holders, tenure-holders, knowledge-holders and other impacted groups in collectively addressing the root causes of catastrophic wildfire while also supporting community well-being, upholding Indigenous stewardship and increasing the resilience of our forests. Throughout this work, the Mitigating Wildfire initiative will provide a platform to hear from those most impacted by wildfire and will strive to ground discussions in community and Indigenous values.

We have the important opportunity to fundamentally restructure our relationship with fire. In addressing the risk of catastrophic wildfire, we can:

  • Manage our landscapes to integrate many values (cultural, conservation, economic, health, resilience, recreational etc)
  • Focus on proactive and mitigatory approaches that will lessen carbon emissions and increase protection for communities
  • Work to meaningfully implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, building up co-governance models and supporting Indigenous land and fire stewardship
  • Build out community engagement and ensure that tenure holders, community members and impacted parties are able to help shape decisions that affect them
  • Re-consider how we will navigate co-existing with fire, shifting from conceptions of fire as “bad” to recognizing that prescribed fire and cultural fire are key tools to building more fire resilient landscapes and communities


How we address the root causes of catastrophic wildfire will greatly impact the continued viability of communities across BC and our ability to successfully conserve natural ecosystems and cultural practices.

Considering this, Indigenous Peoples, impacted communities, government agencies, researchers, rights-holders and tenure-holders across multiple sectors are working to identify and advance a range of solutions. Given the challenging context of this massive and complex issue, there is a clear need to:

  • Convene dialogue among many interested parties
  • Assist communities, stakeholders and decision-makers in navigating trade-offs and real-world constraints
  • Build consensus towards actionable solutions and create pathways for a shared agenda going forward

Ultimately, the Mitigating Wildfire Initiative aims to support decision-makers and leaders from across BC to navigate the complexities and tradeoffs of our collective emerging reality. We aim to provide a vehicle for engaging a range of collaborators in a respectful, relational, generative process to identify and advance recommended solutions.

Three Streams

To ensure an approach that aptly addresses the complexity and scale of wildfire mitigation, objectives are being pursued through three programming streams:

  • Systems-Based: Addressing systemic and thematic policy issues that require collaboration and strategic alignment between jurisdictions
  • Indigenous-Led: Supporting meaningful inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and governance, and supporting effective collaboration among Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments
  • Place-Based: Ensuring integration of on-the-ground knowledge and applicability of solutions to different geographical contexts

For media and other inquiries related to the Mitigating Wildfire Program and our work during this season, please reach out to Associate Director Yolanda Clatworthy.


Past Events

SFU Vancouver Lunch ‘n’ Learn: The Wildfire Crisis

Our team held a panel discussion to explore the pressing issue of wildfires with the wider SFU community. Facilitated by Dr. Robin Freeman, the panel included James Whitehead, our engagement analyst, Attila Nelson from the First Nations Emergency Services’ Society and Dr. Stephanie Cleland from the Faculty of Health Sciences at SFU.

Dialogue Workshop on Strategic and Collaborative Approaches to Mitigating Wildfire

This workshop brought together a spectrum of voices, including Indigenous leaders, officials, experts, practitioners, and advocates in a candid and open conversation on the challenges and potential solutions surrounding wildfire mitigation.    


Staff from the Mitigating Wildfire Initiative attended the Wildfire Resiliency Summit in Vancouver in May and the Community Forests Association Conference in Kamloops in June.

Advisory Committee Strategic Retreat

In March, the Project Team and Advisory Committee participated in a three-day retreat to dialogue about wildfire in BC and plan for the future of the Mitigating Wildfire Initiative. 

2022 Bruce and Lis Welch Community Dialogue: Facing the Flames - New and Old Ways of Co-existing with Fire

As part of the annual Bruce and Lis Welch Community Dialogue programming, we explored big ideas for the future of wildfire in our province, through dialogue, with speakers Joe Gilchrist, of Interior Salish Firekeepers Society, and Paul Hessburg, Senior Research Ecologist with US Forest Services.


Project Team

The role of the project team is to create the frameworks and relationships for successful implementation of the Mitigating Wildfire Initiative, and to lead and coordinate the delivery of various projects in collaboration with partners. 

Advisory Committee

The mandate of the Mitigating Wildfire advisory committee is to provide oversight and strategic guidance for the design, planning and implementation of the Mitigating Wildfire Initiative, as well as to assist with outreach and partnership development.

Not pictured: Francis Johnson and Kevin Kriese

Dr. Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz

Dr. Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz has lived and learned on unceded Indigenous territories in the land now known as British Columbia since 2016. Kelsey is a fire ecologist and social scientist who is an advocate for community wildfire resilience, local governance and connecting research to practice. She brings skills as a practitioner in natural resource management and collaborative and co-created research, and has worked with partners in Indigenous and local communities, the BC Wildfire Service, the BC Community Forest Association and the First Nations Emergency Services Society. Find Kelsey on twitter @kcopesgerbitz.

Joe Gilchrist

Joe Gilchrist is a member of the Skeetchestn Indian Band near Kamloops and Vice President of the Interior Salish Firekeepers. Joe’s earliest memories of using fire are from growing up along the Thompson River near Ashcroft in a house with no power, running water or plumbing. Fire was used daily for cooking, boiling water and warming the house during winter. Moving to Merritt at six years old, Joe noticed fire being used to improve hay production, cattle feed and deer habitat. Joe started firefighting at the age of 15 as an emergency hire, then became a member of the newly formed Merritt Firedevils Type 1 Unit Crew in 1991, first as a squad boss and then as Unit Crew Leader the following year. In 1996, Joe became a full time employee with BC Wildfire service in the Merritt Fire Zone after completing a 16-week Fire Prevention Technician course at the Tribal Justice Institute in Mission BC. He served for 17 years, and continues to support cultural fire initiatives today.

Dr. Kira Hoffman

Dr. Kira Hoffman is a professional fire ecologist and former wildland firefighter. Dr. Hoffman's research focuses on how humans have used fire for millennia to manage and enhance their natural surroundings. Currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of British Columbia, she is passionate about linking knowledge to action through science. Find her @kiramhoffman on Twitter or visit

Francis Johnson

Francis Johnson is the Forest Manager for Alkali Resource Management Ltd and lives and works in his home village of Esk’et (Place of the White Earth) of the Secwépemc nation. Francis’ traditional name is T7exwemneq’t and he is one of three Hereditary Chiefs in the community. Through cultural teachings, Francis is learning the importance of fire as a management tool on the land and is reviving cultural burning practices within the community. Francis is working collaboratively with BCWS and local Ministry staff on adaptive management projects, with the goal of using fire to reduce fuel loading, create resilient forests and manage traditional plants and medicines on the land. Francis is married with six children and enjoys fishing, hunting, gathering and preparing food by growing a garden and raising chickens, turkeys and pigs.

Kevin Kriese

Kevin is trained as a forester and planner and has worked for 30 years in the field of land and resource management.  He has worked extensively in the areas of land use, reconciliation and organizational leadership including serving as Assistant Deputy Minister of Regional Operations with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Operations and a term as Chair of the Forest Practices Board.  Kevin is now a Senior Wildfire and Land Use Advisor with the Polis Project, Centre for Global Studies, at the University of Victoria.

Garnet Miereau, RPF

Garnet was born at a place that the Plains Cree named Moscâstani-sîpiy, meaning “a warm place by the river”, that settlers referred to as Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Today he lives with his family at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, “where two rivers meet”, also known as Kamloops, BC. Garnet has over 30 years experience in forest management in Western Canada and leads teams of practice that include professional forestry services in wildfire, visual resource and tenure management, as well as strategic planning. Garnet is a past president of Forest Professionals BC (2022) and believes in serving public interest through collaborative approaches and regulated practice under the Professional Governance Act. He enjoys time spent skiing with his family or with his camera in a kayak on a remote lake.

Arjun Singh

Arjun Singh served 14 years on Kamloops City Council and nine years on the Thompson Nicola Regional District Board. He has extensive experience with citizen engagement and a strong understanding of extreme weather impacts, climate action and emergency management. Arjun is a life member and past president (2019/19) of the Union of BC Municipalities. He currently works as a facilitator and strategic advisor to citizens and communities across British Columbia.

We at the Mitigating Wildfire Initiative are continually exploring how to better nurture innovation and solution-seeking, increase sharing of knowledge and practices, and work toward collaborative, strategic approaches to mitigating catastrophic wildfire. We welcome inputs from diverse actors: contact Associate Director Yolanda Clatworthy with any questions.