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New B.C. funding supports First Nations to build forest, community resilience

January 11, 2024  By Government of B.C.

Photo: Annex Business Media.

Two grants from the British Columbia province for the First Nations Emergency Services Society (FNESS) will help support emergency management and land stewardship, as well as disaster- and climate-risk resilience in communities throughout B.C.

“We are committed to working with First Nations partners to create stronger and more resilient forests and communities,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “These grants build on the incredible work already being done by First Nations communities and will help grow capacity for Nation-led wildfire and emergency management in the future.”

A $5-million grant from the Ministry of Forests will go toward a broad range of fire-stewardship programs at the local level and will be distributed by FNESS based on input from First Nations. Funds will support revitalization of Indigenous cultural practices for fire stewardship and land resilience, and facilitate new equipment and wildfire training to improve emergency response and help organize First Nations community-led forums and outreach.

In addition, the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness has provided $960,000 to FNESS to help advance the province’s collective understanding of disaster and climate risk throughout B.C. to support community resilience, planning and decision-making. The funding will support FNESS to undertake work that will help inform the Province’s Disaster and Climate Risk and Resilience Assessments (DCRRA). The first phase of this will evaluate the risks posed on a provincial scale by floods, wildfires, extreme heat, drought and earthquakes. Further in-depth regional assessments will begin this year.


“As climate-change impacts intensify, the likelihood of emergencies grows,” said George Heyman, acting Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “That’s why we’re taking proactive steps now to reduce threats to people, communities and critical infrastructure. This support for FNESS will help First Nations apply their knowledge and experience to address disaster and climate risks in their communities. This will make people safer and more secure, as well as strengthening the entire province’s resilience.”

FNESS is a First-Nations-led organization that delivers essential emergency and forest-fuel-management services to First Nations communities throughout the province. A key member of FireSmart BC, FNESS provides fire-related education for rural First Nations communities, particularly regarding fire safety, emergency preparedness and forest-fuel management.

Funding to FNESS will help improve knowledge-sharing of disaster and climate risks across First Nations communities and develop networks for collaboration between FNESS and the province. For example, the funding supports:

  • data strategy and gap analysis on provincial and regional priority hazards and slow-onset risks;
  • developing a process for upholding local and Indigenous knowledges in data platforms and risk and resilience assessments;
  • aligning the development of community risk-assessment tools and guidance with learnings from the DCRRA; and
    a disaster-risk reduction and climate-adaptation guide for First Nations.

“With these grants, FNESS can continue supporting First Nations community resiliency by adding internal capacity to expand services that further support cultural and prescribed fire, wildfire training and development, and FireSmart BC.” said Quentin Nelson, mitigation team leader, FNESS. “FNESS will host a series of regional engagement sessions to support increased participation in the CRI program, as well as determine barriers to applying and understand where opportunities for program improvement exist.”

Established in 1994, FNESS evolved from the Society of Native Indian Fire Fighters of BC. Initially, the goal of the organization was to help reduce the number of fire-related deaths on First Nation reserves but was expanded to include more preventative services, such as training, education and community outreach. FNESS is a charitable non-profit organization incorporated under the Society Act of British Columbia.

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