New TRU-based chair to lead the charge on wildfire research and prevention

TRU to receive $5 million of funding from the provincial government to pay for the new position

A collaborative effort between the province of B.C., the mayors of population centres Kamloops, Kelowna, and Prince George, alongside a research coalition between TRU, UBC-Okanagan and the University of Northern British Columbia has led to the creation of a new research chair dedicated to all things wildfires.

The new position titled the “BC Research Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science” has the goal of bettering current methods of forecasting, prevention, and response to wildfire emergencies.

The Chair will head a team, lead research, direct and supervise graduate students and work with researchers at TRU and other universities. In part, the chair’s research will support wildfire data modelling in the heart of wildfire country. It will also help explore the relationship between climate change and its effect on wildfire risk.

Provincial funding of $5 million for the endowment will pay for the TRU-hosted position. This is in part due to TRU’s proximity to important wildfire centres; the Emergency Management BC (EMBC), and BC Wildfire Service operational centres, both of which have offices in Kamloops. 

“Kamloops is the ideal location for this research position,” Kamloops mayor Ken Christian stated. “Not only do we have a natural vulnerability to forest fires, in particular urban interference fires, we also have had a great deal of experience dealing with evacuations and recovery. This is good news for Kamloops and for British Columbia.”

“This new position will bring together experts to advance the use of technology in emergency management,” said Michelle Mungall, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness. “Our province needs innovative solutions to help minimize the threats that wildfires pose to our people and economy.

Even in what has been considered a slow summer for wildfires, 587 wildfires have started in 2020, with 33 currently considered active. Of those wildfires, 46 per cent of the total fires were found to be started by a person. In 2017, wildfires cost the province $1.6 billion.

The new chair position addresses a need for a B.C. problem that will benefit the entire province, the mayors agree

Mayor of Kelowna, Colin Basran, stated, “The devastating floods and wildfires that we’ve experienced in recent years illustrate that climate change impacts us all. This research will benefit the entire province.”

Prince George mayor Lyn Hall echoed Basran’s sentiment, recognizing the impact of prior wildfire seasons: “The 2017 and 2018 wildfires brought the realities of our current ecological climate home to Prince George.”

TRU currently hosts nine research chairs, with the latest one rounding the number to 10. The appointment is anticipated to be made later this year.