The provincial government's recent review of the 2009 fire season recognized the importance of clearing or thinning wooded areas that, if left alone, could increase the chances or severity of a wildfire. But just 171 words of that 7,957 word report were spent discussing such fuel treatment projects and the protection plans that recommend how communities can prepare for such blazes. As a result, some might take this as an indication the ministry of forests and range is more interested in fighting those fires when they happen rather than putting dollars into preventative measures, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell told Public Eye Radio, "I think we're very much interested in both, Sean."
"One hundred and fifty-eight communities across the province have now got wildfire protection plans in place or are very close to being complete. And, more importantly, you'll recall that last fall we announced an expedited program where we 16 individuals from our protection branch and sent them out to talk to the 92 communities we identified that did not have community wildfire protection plans in place," he continued.
"And we were able to get to all 92 of those communities. The outcome is that 11 of them have now started community wildfire protection plans. There are fuel reduction projects that have been initiated in about 25 new communities since then. And then the wildfire phase one management plan sign-off has occurred in 28. So I think, again, there's been good progress."
Although the minister later acknowledged the fact only 11 communities started protection plans after being contacted by the wildfire management branch meant, "81 thought that was not necessary."