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New agreement between Yukon First Nations Wildfire and government builds on relationship of reconciliation

Yukon First Nations Wildfire founding member Frederick Koe says the agreement is “monumental.”

Yukon First Nations Wildfire Chair Frederick Koe speaking at a virtual signing ceremony.

Yukon First Nations Wildfire has entered a new three-year agreement with the government of Yukon’s wildland fire management branch.


The plan was to hold an in person signing ceremony to make the unit crew services agreement official, but out of COVID caution, Minister of Community Services Richard Mostyn and Yukon First Nations Wildfire Chair and founding member Frederick Koe came together virtually on Zoom.


According to Koe, the federal government used to manage wildfires in the territory but that responsibility was given to the government of Yukon about 20 years ago. After that, contracts were given to First Nations to provide support to crews. For the last two years, there have been agreements with Yukon First Nations Wildfire.


Koe says the signing of the new agreement is “monumental.”


“This provides us now with the stability for programming [and] for budgeting,” says Koe.


Yukon Youth to battle blazes


Under the newly signed agreement, 20 young people will be hired to help fight the flames and keep the territory safe. They will also be tasked with conducting fossil fuel reduction and fire prevention activities in an effort to make Yukon communities more resilient to wildfire.


Applicants will to go through a two-week training course and pass physical tests in hopes of earning a certificate to prove their first aid, chainsaw, and general firefighting skills are up to snuff.


“It’s quite extensive,” says Koe.


“They have to be ready, willing, and able – and they’re out there ready to go wherever they are called, whenever they are called,” Koe adds.


“This is providing opportunities, good opportunities for Yukon youth to train and work and be employed,” Koe continues.


Only those who qualify will get the job. Then they will go on to battle blazes throughout the Yukon’s wildfire season, which Koe says is from around early May to the middle of August.


Bolstering connections with First Nations

Minister of Community Services Richard Mostyn speaking at a virtual signing ceremony.

The new agreement is expected to cost about $400,000 in prevention and mitigation expenses, money that is allocated for in the existing wildland fire management budget. Some of that cash will go to retreating areas in the FireSmart program – an endeavour that removes wildfire fuel such as dead trees and brush from Yukon forests.


Minister Mostyn says he was happy to sign the agreement.


“Yukon First Nations have been integral to wildfire management in the Yukon for many years and our government is pleased to continue to support and work with Yukon First Nations Wildfire,” says Mostyn.


Koe says the new agreement strengthens ties with First Nations.


“It helps build that relationship of reconciliation with Yukon First Nations. This is their land and we are hiring their people,” say Koe.


Koe says now he is looking forward to the next three years of partnership.


Published February 24, 2022. 

Written by: Dylan MacNeil

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