Children can learn more about the FireSmart program with the help of Ember, the program’s new mascot, thanks to a partnership between the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library system (TNRL) and the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS).
For the next three months, all branches of the TNRL will be offering programs aimed at making children more aware of wildfire preparedness and resiliency, and what they can do. Amanda Reynolds, a FireSmart Education Officer with the BCWS, explains why the TNRL was chosen to roll out this new project.
“We wanted to get more education into the hands of students, and thought that the Thompson-Nicola Regional District would be a good place for a pilot program, because every part of the TNRD was affected by fires last year, and there was the devastating loss of Lytton. We felt that getting involved with the summer reading program was a great way to engage with communities that were impacted by fires.”
Reynolds says that the TNRL was 100 per cent on board with the idea of piloting the project. Next year, any library across B.C. will be able to sign up for resources through the Community Resiliency Investment Program, which helps communities with FireSmart funding and supports.
A FireSmart education kit was developed by BCWS staff, and last year Ember was adopted as the FireSmart mascot as part of a move to create more material for children. Reynolds explains that reaching out to children is a good way to effect societal change.
“For long term change you need to educate kids. This is like the new recycling program. Kids would go home and talk to their parents about recycling, and now it’s a societal norm, something everyone does.”
A fox was chosen as the national mascot for the FireSmart program, as it’s an animal that is found across Canada. Ember personifies alertness, adaptability, intelligence, and community mindedness, and was named following a national competition last year.
Ember has her own website, Ember’s Den, which features videos, colouring sheets, activities for kids, and resources and information about FireSmart for the whole family. Children can also take part in a variety of activities through their local TNRL branch, starting with a colouring contest through April. Children aged 12 and under can pick up a colouring sheet featuring Ember, and at the end of the month each branch will give an Ember plush toy to one entry in a prize draw.
In May, children can explore wildfire preparedness along with Ember by picking up a free activity package at their local library. Each package includes a colouring book, crayons, a sticker, a magnet, and information about making your home FireSmart.
In June, children can borrow a wildfire resiliency literacy kit designed for kids aged 3 to 8. The kits provide children with a way to explore and learn more about wildfires, so that they are more prepared and resilient in the event of a fire.
Reynolds says that the program is a way for the BC Wildfire Service to stay connected with kids, even during wildfire season.
“We’ll be all hands on deck fighting fires, but we can still do this connecting with youth. They can see what we do, learn about the firefighters and information officers and dispatchers, see that we’re all one big family helping towards the same cause.”
She adds that they’re hoping to learn some lessons from the pilot project so it can be available to everyone, no matter where they are in the province.
“It’s so important for every part of B.C., and it’s easier to teach someone something new than try to change the way someone’s been doing things. We want to make sure kids have an idea of what FireSmart is and what we can do, because everyone needs to step up their game on preparedness.
“We hope no one is impacted by wildfire, but it’s best to be prepared. We want people to be as prepared as possible, knowing they’ve done all they can for their home.”