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Wildfire research centre proposed in Kamloops

The proposed Institute for Wildfire Science, Adaptation and Resiliency would be headed up by Thompson Rivers University’s Dr. Mike Flannigan, a BC Research Chair, professor and renowned wildfire expert
The Bush Creek East wildfire near the Shuswap town of Sorrento during the summer of 2023. | Shuswap Emergency Program

Thompson Rivers University’s senate will be presented with a proposal for a new research centre in Kamloops that will focus on the mitigation and adaptation to the effects of future wildfire seasons.

The proposed Institute for Wildfire Science, Adaptation and Resiliency would be headed up by TRU’s Dr. Mike Flannigan, a BC Research Chair, professor and renowned wildfire expert.

A proposal going to the university's senate said the institute would position TRU as “an international leader in transdisciplinary collaborative wildfire science and education.”

Topics of research would include fire science, the effects of drought and climate change and the social, behavioural, health and economic implications of wildfires.

“Participants in this program will generate new knowledge on wildfire prediction and management, improve ecosystem restoration strategies considering drought, and examine the evolving ecological role of wildfires and drought in B.C. forests,” the proposal reads.

Funding for the institution has already been secured for three-years, funding an operations manager position, administrative support and initial partnership development actives, with a proposed base operating budget of $204,200 a year.

The proposal said the institute is part of a larger TRU-led wildfire initiative, meant to combine research, training, education and innovation.

Beyond the secured funding for the first three years, the institute will rely on funding from grants, contracts and government sources.

One of the institution's long-term goals is to begin developing undergraduate course programming over the next three to five years, with the eventual goal of establishing a dedicated wildfire science degree — which would be a first in Canada.

The initial research team would include Flannigan, Jill Harvey, a Canada Research Chair in fire ecology, and LauchlanFraser, an industrial research chair in ecosystem reclamation.

“The institute will serve as a hub, bringing together all levels of government, community, post-secondary institutions, Indigenous knowledge holders and international wildfire centres,” the proposal reads.

The proposal will be discussed in TRU Senate on Monday.