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
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
ALR committee files report
Cannabis drives drop in Delta farm assessments
Editorial: Party and province
Back Forty: You can’t get apps on that
Viewpoint: Annual assessments a chance to take stock
Preliminary hearing in high-profile poultry abuse
Survey keeps national park reserve in spotlight
Political engagement headlines dairy meeting
World milk prices take blame for shifting returns
Patience is a virtue
Ag Briefs: Sasaki appointed new head of chicken board
Ag Briefs: Ottawa invests in dairy sector
AB: Piece rates, taxes increase
AB: AITC focuses on growth
Letters: Protect farmland from cannabis production
Letters: Dog owners need to accept responsibility
Letters: The beef about climate change
Cadillac’ of aviaries will reduce labour costs
Berry growers face new import requirements
Open house reveals secrets of diagnostics lab
Cannabis propagation industry sprouting in BC
Sidebar: Deep roots
FCC targets women with new business program
Agreement sets stage for fish farm phase-out
Grazing, forage and water top list at town hall
Ranchers reassured regarding bovine TB cases
Digging into soil nutrition at education day
Science of cannabis takes centre stage
Blueberry growers hone use of box liners
Ostrich industry takes flight with big plans
Tunnels boost fruit quality, add to berry season
Big bucks being spent to protect bee health
Sidebar: Province boosts funding
Mystery bee disease studied
Direct-marketing opportunities have potential
Research: Preventing soft scald in apples
Regional food system is the new focus of group’s efforts
Wannabe: Growers deserve our love
Woodshed: A performance Kenneth can’t afford to miss
Jude’s Kitchen: Happy new year, my sweet Valentine