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B.C. orders independent review of 2017 wildfire and flooding response

2017 wildfires cost the province $564 million in firefighting expenses.

A wildfire burns on a mountain behind an RV park office in Cache Creek on July 8. B.C. has 

ordered a closer look at this year’s wildfire and flooding response.

DARRYL DYCK / The Canadian Press

A wildfire burns on a mountain behind an RV park office in Cache Creek on July 8. B.C. has ordered a closer look at this year’s wildfire and flooding response.

A former B.C. cabinet minister and First Nations chief are leading an independent review on the provincial government's response to the record-breaking wildfires and floods in 2017, the government announced Monday.

The government declared a province-wide state of emergency in July that was extended several times due to the severity of the summer's wildfires. The state of emergency lasted 10 weeks, making it the longest in B.C.'s history.

George Abbot, a former cabinet minister, and Maureen Chapman, a hereditary chief of the Skawahlook First Nation, will lead the review, according to a government press release.

“What B.C. went through this past year was unprecedented with respect to wildfires and flooding,” said Abbott.

“Given the scale of these events and the enormous effort it took to deal with them, this review is an opportunity to take a closer look at what took place and how the government could enhance its response strategies.”

“It’s important to have an independent team look at this year’s flooding and wildfire seasons with fresh eyes,” said Chapman.

“The goal is to learn from those experiences and improve the government’s procedures for dealing with these kinds of events.”

The review team is expected to present a report with recommendations by April 2018, in time to help the government deal with next year's flooding and wildfiire season.

The two largest fires — near Williams Lake and Elephant Hill — cost insurers about $100 million and $27 million respectively, the Insurance Bureau of Canada estimated in September. About 1,346 wildfires burned over 1.2 million hectares since April 1, 2017, costing the province $564 million in fire fighting costs and forcing 65,000 people to flee their homes, according to the B.C. government.

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