Wildfires boosted awareness of emergency planning
by David Schmidt
ABBOTSFORD – It is critical for the livestock industry to have both an emergency response plan and people trained to implement it, says BC Cattlemen’s Association general manager Kevin Boon.
He admits he was skeptical about the value of participating in last spring’s discussions to develop an emergency response plan (targeted at animal diseases) but last summer’s wildfires have made him a believer.
“2017 was an extremely challenging year for BC ranchers. We started with floods and within days were fighting fires on the same land,” he told the Centre for Organizational Governance in Agriculture livestock seminar in Abbotsford, February 14. “Our industry is still tallying the losses.”
While few people in the Fraser Valley were directly impacted by wildfire, Boon warns snowmelt will happen more quickly on land denuded by the fires. This promises a shorter, more intense freshet and the potential for spring flooding in the Lower Mainland.
Ranchers will also feel a lingering impact, Boon says, because invasive weeds will take over scorched acreage if grass isn’t planted soon.
Although there were emergency response plans, farms were not prepared for the size of the emergency.
“There’s a plan, and there’s being prepared,” Boon says. “They are not the same. Each region had its own plan and there were minor variations, which was a pain for us.”
Ranchers had no way of tracking cattle but that turned out to have an unexpected benefit. Since moving cattle out of danger areas was conditional on having premises ID, “we went from having 25% to 100% enrollment in premises ID in the Chilcotin in 36 hours.”
Boon says the biggest problem was the fact no one in the emergency operations centres knew how to deal with ranchers who defied evacuation orders to care for their animals and put up winter feed. That changed when rancher and BCCA’s AgSafe rep Reg Steward moved into the Williams Lake command centre.
“He didn’t work for government and had ‘skin in the game’ so ranchers could relate to him,” Boon says. “The trouble was I only had one Reg Steward. He was in the EOC for 48 days straight.”
Boon says last summer’s experience has created huge awareness about emergency preparedness.
“This is where associations become important. We have to develop a plan and train people to get in the EOCs,” he says.
Boon has high hopes for the Canadian Animal Health Coalition emergency management plan initiative.
He says it needs to include both animal health emergencies and natural disasters. He would like to see a cross-sectoral approach with a focus on training industry representatives to participate in government-run EOCs.
“If we teach the right principles, there’s no reason we can’t have a chicken producer spell off a livestock producer or vice versa,” Boon says.
Vol. 104 Issue 3
Wine spat heads to court
ALR sidebar: Points for review
Budget boosts ag funding for strategic initiatives
Editorial: Good intentions
Back forty: Fires, floods and earthquakes: are your ready?
So where do I get a social license
FIRB review pleases commodities
Dairy outlook faces growing headwinds
Trade negotiations boost grower uncertainties
Chicken price slides despite new pricing formula
Fruit growers elect Dhaliwal president
Growers discuss SVC audits
This little tyke
Orchard app unveiled at BC Tree Fruit forum
Gala celebrates ag leadership
Ag show attendance down from record set last year
Canadian Ag Partnership “open for business”
Sidebar: Crop rich in histroy, controvery
BC MP appointed ag critic
Research money key to berry sector’s future
Sidebar: Weather hurts 2017 blueberry Yields
Cowichan Valley showcases Islands agriculture
Wildfire season offers valuable lessons
Make a plan and get fire smart
Cattle producers must champion codes of practice
For the kids
How do I move forward
Pine Butte kicks off bull sales
High-tech grass production showcased on tour
Environmentally friendly weed control
Sidebar: Mixed results
Hazelnut inventory sets industry baseline
Collaboration ups ante in fight against Wireworm
Sidebar: Going for control
New pest game-changers for BC forage producers
Farm safety is a family tradition on island
New varieties key to industry’s future
Successful farm tours pay attention to detail
Sidebar: No detail too small
Research: UBC perfects test of smoke taint in wine grapes
Sensors help nurseries cut water use up to 60%
Producers encouraged to monitor irrigation water quality
Sidebar: Water sampling tips
Urgan farmers take their dreams up country
New entrants give fresh life to old dairy barns
KPU student receives Tim Armstrong award
Wannabe: Hurry up, Spring!
Woodshed: Clay lives up to all of Ashley’s expectations
Jude’s Kitchen: Spring brunch