Transforming fire governance in British Columbia, Canada: an emerging vision for coexisting with fire

TitleTransforming fire governance in British Columbia, Canada: an emerging vision for coexisting with fire
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsCopes‑Gerbitz, K, Hagerman, SM, Daniels, LD
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Date Published03/2022
KeywordsCommand and control, governance, Indigenous fire, technical reports and journal articles, Transformation, wildfire

The dominant command and control fire governance paradigm is proven ineffective at coping with modern wildfire challenges. In response, jurisdictions globally are calling for transformative change that will facilitate coexisting with future fires. Enacting transformative change requires attention to historical governance attributes that may enable or constrain transformation, including diverse actors, objectives, worldviews of fire, decision-making processes and power, legislation, and drivers of change. To identify potential pathways for transformative change, we systematically examined the history of fire governance attributes in British Columbia (BC), Canada (until 2020), a region that has experienced seven catastrophic fire seasons in the twenty-first century. By reviewing 157 provincial historical documents and interviewing 19 fire experts, we delineated five distinct governance eras that demonstrated the central role of government actors with decision-makingpower shaping fire governance through time, superseding First Nations fire governance starting in the 1870s. The emerging vision for transformation proposed by interviewees focuses on the need for increased decision-making power for community actors, yet legacies of entrenched government power and organizational silos between fire and forestry continue to constrain transformation. Although progress to overcome constraints has been made, we argue that enabling transformative change in fire governance in BC will require intervention by the provincial government to leverage modern drivers of change, including recent catastrophic fire seasons and reconciliation with First Nations.