Wildfires in BC: Health effects and system implications in a global perspective

March 27, 2019 at 12:00pm PT

Wildfires are becoming more severe in British Columbia (BC) and most areas of Canada. In 2017, over 1,300 fires displaced 65,000 residents, including 880 patients and 700 health system staff, costing over $560 million. In 2018, the largest area burned on record, disproportionately impacting remote and Indigenous communities. During both seasons, severe smoke pollution affected the province for weeks, with several communities experiencing some of the worst air quality conditions in the world. 

This webinar explores implications of climate-related severe events from an emergency management perspective, focusing on health care system impacts in BC and lessons learned from consecutive years of a provincial state of emergency. Using an environmental health lens, evidence from BC is placed in a global context to highlight critical gaps that researchers are racing to fill.

Suggested readings

Paul Kovacs, Alice Cullingford, Mike Flannigan, and Lilia Yumagulova. (2018). Canada’s Burning Question : An in-deph feature on the progress made and the callenges remaining for fire management in Canada. HazNet.

Tara K. McGee, Amy Christianson, Kyla Mottershead, and Henok Asfaw. (2018). Advice for emergency managers from the First Nations Wildfire Evacuation Partnership. HazNet.

Report and findings of the BC Flood and Wildfire. (2018). Addressing the New Normal: 21st Century Disaster Management in British Columbia

John Lavery is the Executive Director of Health Emergency Management British Columbia (HEMBC). John is an active member of the WHO’s Emergency Operations Centre Network, co-chairs multiple Canadian federal/provincial/territorial committees, and is a Canadian co-chair of the Pacific Northwest Border Alliance.

Sarah Henderson, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia and Senior Scientist, Environmental Health Services, BC Centre for Disease Control. Sarah is an international expert on the health effects of wildfire smoke and has been studying this topic in BC and around the world for more than 15 years. At the BCCDC she leads a program of applied research and surveillance to support evidence-based policy for the province.

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