Port Alberni students from the wildfire training program at North Island College join NIC Aboriginal Education advisor Luke George, left, NIC wildfire instructor Henry Grierson, MLA and minister Scott Fraser, NIC president John Bowman and NIC regional director of continuing education and training Lynne MacFadgen. LEE SIMMONS PHOTO

North Island College grads prepare for wildfire season

12 students engage in wildfire training at Port Alberni campus

Twelve people in Port Alberni are getting training as wildland firefighters to help protect B.C.’s communities and natural resources and gain skills that could be foundations for rewarding careers.

Scott Fraser, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim, visited participants last week on behalf of Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, as they took part in a wildfire crew member training program funded through a provincial program and delivered by North Island College (NIC).

“Students in Port Alberni are taking the steps to transform their lives with skills training and step up to protect the province as wildfire crew members,” said Mark. “This shows how opening the door of opportunity through education and lifting as we climb really helps us all.”

Natural resource management firm Strategic Natural Resource Consultants is receiving $126,000 from the Community Workforce Response Grant (CWRG) program to help train 12 firefighters in Port Alberni and 12 in Campbell River, with training delivered by NIC.

“These Vancouver Island students are taking on the challenges of a career fighting wildfires, an occupation that benefits us all as British Columbians,” said Fraser. “Many communities have been impacted across the province by devastating back-to-back fire seasons the past two years. Supporting this program is one way our government is working to increase the number of people trained to prevent and respond to wildfires.”

In the course, which started April 29 and ended May 24, learners will receive the certificates and training they need to work as entry level wildland firefighters at Strategic or other incident management contractors.

Practical skills and fundamental theory covered in the course include fire suppression, fire behaviour, wildlife awareness and radio operator and power saw certifications.

The CWRG’s emerging priorities stream supports communities undergoing labour market challenges and opportunities, such as industry closures or expansions, or natural disasters like forest fires and floods.

The 2017 and 2018 fire seasons were two of the worst on record in British Columbia. The province has stepped up fire prevention strategies, programs and funding to help keep British Columbians and their communities safe this summer. Budget 2019 included a 58 percent increase to the wildfire management funding to $101 million a year, including more crews, more aerial capacity and innovative technology, and a more comprehensive prescribed burning program.

This training project is an additional way government is supporting communities and sectors addressing wildfires and wildfire prevention in B.C.

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