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Q&A: Kootenay fire chief Dan Derby named to emergency task force

Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue chief Dan Derby is one of 14 experts named to Premier David Eby’s task force on emergencies who will review “lessons learned and best practices around the response to wildfires, drought, heat, floods and other emergencies affecting the province.” We caught up with Derby to find out more about his role.

What is your group being asked to do?
The task force is working to review the wildfire season and how we support communities in the event of an emergency. Wildfire is a piece but as we’ve seen with increased emergencies around climate change, we’re looking at how communities are impacted by emergency events and what we as responders and government can do to react to the changes.

How were you asked to be on this task force?
It was an appointment through relationships and work I’ve been doing with BC Wildfire and my role with the Fire Chiefs Association of British Columbia. It’s a good opportunity and a huge responsibility to represent fire services from across the province in the conversation. It’s work I’m looking forward to.

When is your first meeting?
We’ve met twice already. We have an in-person meeting next week and then we have meetings scheduled throughout the winter. The group is made up of First Nations, an emergency manager, a CAO, myself as a fire representative, a representative from Cal Fire out of California, and senior level provincial staff. A real good cross-section. Over the winter there will be lots of engagement with affected communities and/or communities with risks to seek input.

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The idea being that your recommendations will be out before the next fire season?
Yes. The goal is to have some recommendations move forward in February. There is work that will probably take longer than that, but if there is change and work that can be done to improve response in 2024, we want to move those actions forward as quick as possible.

Are there changes you already have in mind?
I think there is lots of opportunity to talk about the impacts of what we’ve experienced over the last couple of years on not only communities but on responders and what does change look like to improve the situation for rural communities and host communities for evacuees? There are lots of ideas out there and it will be a huge responsibility to wade through those and make recommendations.

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