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This week we welcomed firefighters from around the province, including three members from Fort St John, to the BC legislature, where we celebrate the hard work that firefighters do. I, along with my colleagues, attended the biannual fallen firefighters memorial, where we gathered to commemorate the firefighters in British Columbia who gave their lives in service of their citizens and communities. They will always be remembered and their character will inspire all of us today and every day.

They will not be forgotten.

For the past two summers, British Columbia has seen record-breaking forest fires. These fires have had devastating effects on the lives of thousands of people in the North and interior. It goes without saying that the impacts of these disasters would be even worse had it not been for the bravery of the BC Wildfire Service, the men and women who make up its ranks, and our own firefighters that left our communities to assist BC Wildfire.

While we are focusing on firefighters, I don’t want to downplay the role of other first responders and what they do to keep our communities safe. Throughout our province, we have police officers that keep us safe from crime, paramedics who take care of us in those crucial moments after an accident, and search and rescue teams that cover every meter of BC’s vast forests and mountain ranges to find people who are lost.

I have a particular respect for the contributions of these individuals due to my firsthand experience with them last year when I experienced a traumatic accident. Had it not been for our first responders, I would not be writing this column today.

Another group in the North Peace we are lucky to have the North Peace Search and Rescue group (NPSRG). The NPSRG provides incredible service for those of us living in an area that is so vast and sparsely populated. Although we hope that we never have to call them, it is important that this service is well-equipped and well-trained for when the unthinkable happens and they must be sent out on a rescue.

And yet, the NDP government did not bother to provide any funding for these resources. On top of the physically and emotionally difficult work that they do, the NPSRG will now have to contend with difficult administrative decisions due to a lack of funding.

As someone who owes their life to first responders, and could only imagine the difficulties that they face due to their work, I think this is shameful. As we honour our firefighters, police, paramedics, and search and rescue teams; we need to send a message to Victoria that there is still more that needs to be done.

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