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Forests minister assures Pemberton money available to fight fires

Forests Minister Mike de Jong has assured Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner...

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Forests Minister Mike de Jong has assured Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner and a number of concerned residents that money would be available and preventative measures were being taken to ensure the area is prepared for the fire season.

After last year’s devastating fires in the Interior many Pemberton residents were anxious to hear about the government’s plan to prevent a similar situation in the Pemberton valley.

During a two and half hour meeting Monday approximately 75 residents heard from de Jong, Paul Kuster, the Squamish Forest District Manager, and Dan Bailey, head of the Firewise program.

De Jong told the residents that forestry services were historically "very good" at stopping fires but in recent years they have, effectively, become victims of their own efficiency.

"In emergency situations we got so good at it that in many ways we thought could do it with less," de Jong told the audience.

"Through the 1990s, 27 crews or emergency reaction units were working in B.C. but it got down to as low as 18, and they did a hell of a good job.

"But after what’s happened we’ve got that number back up to 27."

Despite the added funding, de Jong, Kuster and Bailey warned that it was going to be a "tough summer" and encouraged residents to be mindful of their approach to preventing fires.

"About three weeks ago we heard that someone was doing a fence line burn on a hot day in 60 km/h winds," de Jong said.

"That’s the kind of thing that we’re dealing with out there and it’s the kind of foolishness that could result in some very bad things happening."

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