Last month, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell said problems funding the preparation of community wildfire protection plans would have to be solved by local governments.
But after a six-week investigation - published in this column and on Public Eye's website - revealed more than a 100 such governments don't have protection plans (and those that do may not have acted on them), Bell seems to have rethought his position.
Local fire officials told Public Eye they don't have the money or the manpower to prepare those plans, which can cost $30,000 for municipalities and between $50,000 and $70,000 for regional districts, with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities using provincial funds to foot up to $15,000 of each bill.
But, last week, Bell offered those officials some help, assigning 16 ministry staff to "accelerate" the completion of protection plans.
The Union of British Columbia Municipalities is also improving it's funding formula for fuel treatment projects, which involve the thinning or clearing of wooded areas that, if left alone, could increase the chances or severity of a forest fire.
Treatment projects are the costliest part of protection plans, which include other recommendations such as buying new forest fire fighting equipment or changing bylaws.
Bell's initiative to "accelerate" the completion of wildfire protection plans might help those communities that want them.
But it won't help communities where local government officials don't think they need them - despite the recent vicious fire season.
In an interview with Public Eye, Fort St. John fire chief Fred Burrows said, in the past, "there was not a lot of support" from the city's "management-level" for a protection plan.
As a result, Fort St. John doesn't have one, even though Burrows thinks it needs such a plan.
That might happen thanks to the hiring of a new city manager.
But Powell River regional district administrator Frances Ladret doesn't think there's a pressing need for a plan in her community.
"It just really hasn't come up as an issue here," she said when asked why her local government doesn't have one.
"I suppose there's always a risk. But our emergency program co-ordinator, who also works for the coastal fire service, has said coastal forests aren't as vulnerable, certainly, as Interior forests."
And that's true.
But a strategic threat analysis, prepared for the provincial government in 2004, identified a number of areas in that district that have the potential to trigger a wildfire.
And that suggests, according to New Democrat forests and range critic Norm Macdonald, the province needs to do more than just assign staff to "accelerate" the completion of protection plans.
"Unless the province takes a leadership role...and sees that the work is done, it's just not going to happen. It hasn't happened so far. It's been five years (since the 2003 Firestorm Provincial Review). Hasn't happened."
Sean Holman is editor of the online provincial political news journal Public Eye (publiceyeonline.com). He can be reached at email@example.com.