Launching the rancher liaison program

The BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) and BC Cattlemen’s Association joint rancher liaison program built valuable relationships and generated learning for both organization’s during the 2022 wildfire season.

The ‘rancher liaison’ role was designed to intentionally build a communication conduit between ranchers in an active wildfire area and BCWS to improve the flow of information in both directions.

Gord Burns shares his experience supporting wildfire management efforts this year in the Southeast Fire Centre

The role proved to be an asset to ranching communities across the province, and to BCWS staff members who worked closely with the liaisons.

Norene Parke, manager of the rancher liaison program, has 28 years of experience in BC Emergency Health Services and over 60 years of experience ranching.

After the program was trialed during the 2021 wildfire season, Parke took the learnings and created a training manual to expand the program. Additional materials and courses were shared with liaison applicants to increase understanding of wildfire operations with a focus on Incident Management Teams, cultural sensitivities, heavy equipment safety and the Incident Command System.

This year, there was a pool of 44 liaisons trained and ready to go, with seven deployed to areas with active wildfires throughout the province to support BCWS and Incident Management Teams.

Parke said in addition to creating impactful connections, this season provided valuable learning opportunities for the liaisons and offered insight as to where the program can be further developed.

Ranching experience is one important quality for this role, but additional qualifications have proven valuable, such as search and rescue experience, service as a conservation officer and emergency management experience.

“The number one factor that we felt was the most valuable was a rancher that knew the area and had a really good communication style” Parke shared.

Rancher liaison, Warren Fowler, assisted BC Wildfire Service incident management teams working in the Dawson Creek Fire Zone during the 2022 wildfire season

She said communication skills were invaluable to connect with BCWS staff, members of the public and to herself, as she oversees the program.

“The best thing to come out of the program is it has created an avenue for ranchers and wildfire personnel to communicate effectively, efficiently and without a lot of angst.”

To learn more about the 2022 wildfire season, read the season summary.