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Pitching in

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Jack Middleton: With all hands on deck, energy projects pitch in to help with firefighting capacity across B.C.

Wildfires are burning across British Columbia after record heatwaves. We’ve all seen the tragic stories about lost communities, and even lives. Firefighters have been working hard and responding in the toughest conditions to save people’s homes and lives.

Increased capacity for firefighting hasn’t just come from governments. In many cases, funding and support is coming from pipeline projects like Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink (CGL). Building and operating major projects in B.C. includes an ongoing commitment to be a good neighbour – which includes extreme weather response, and robust emergency preparedness.

For close to 70 years Trans Mountain has operated safely and responsibly across B.C. Community and Indigenous engagement on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project has included comprehensive emergency management programs and exercises with local fire departments and emergency services. Over the past five years alone, Trans Mountain has held many emergency preparedness exercises along the pipeline route, including Kamloops.

These drills became reality when Trans Mountain workers joined volunteers to help fight a fire near Napier Lake south of Kamloops. Through their quick action and efforts, they were able to save a home metres away from the wildfire. Fortunately, the evacuation alerts have now been lifted around Napier Lake. Just this week, workers jumped into action to put out vehicle fires near Hope.

Trans Mountain has also provided Indigenous communities funding to build their fire departments. In 2017, as a part of the mutual benefits agreement with the Simpcw First Nation North of Kamloops in Barriere, the nation opened a new fire hall with enhanced supports for fighting fires and responding to other emergency situations.

Surerus Murphy Joint Venture one of the contractors working on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, has been working closely with Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band (WP/CIB) since 2018. In 2020, Surerus Murphy and Trans Mountain engaged WP/CIB to provide wildfire fighting training to work crews in the B.C. Interior.

After the tragic news from Lytton, British Columbians sprang into action to support survivors; Trans Mountain was no exception. The project has been coordinating with local authorities to provide temporary accommodations – lodging, meals, and power through their camp communities to some of those who were displaced.

While the majority of high-profile fires has been in the southern interior, projects like CGL have also invested in firefighting training facilities in communities like Burns Lake, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, and Fraser Lake. In rural and remote communities where firefighting capacity often relies on volunteers, training is vital.

While major projects are built across the province, there is an increased focus on firefighting capacity, but the companies aren’t just doing it because the resources happen to be available during construction. This is about ensuring the region has increased firefighting training capacity for the long term.

Major projects will operate for many years across the province, and want to be good neighbours, today and tomorrow.

Jack Middleton is an Advisor for Citizen Engagement and Outreach in B.C. with CAPP.

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