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West Kelowna fire chief back to work after whirlwind UN trip

Jason Brolund just returned from New York where he was asked to address the Sustainable Development Goals Summit 2023 at the United Nations.

If you had asked West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund what his life would be like two months ago, his answer would have been very different than it is today.

"It's not something that I ever expected would come out of this and it's not something that I'm looking for. I also never expected to be at the UN."

Brolund just returned from New York City where he was asked to address the Sustainable Development Goals Summit 2023 at the United Nations.

Brolund says he got the chance to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he toured the McDougall Creek wildfire on Aug. 25.

"It was a request from the Prime Minister and, of course, I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to share the story," Brolund said.

Brolund could probably get elected for just about any public office he wanted in the Okanagan after receiving praise for how be communicated with the public during the McDougall Creek wildfire.

"The fact that Trudeau would come to our fire hall, or the Vancouver Canucks would come, or that I'd be at the United Nations, I mean, these are all things that you just don't think about, but they're all such boosts to our department and our community. You know, for me to be able to give that speech at the UN on the day that the evacuation orders and alerts are lifted, and the fire is declared 'held' in our community was a pretty neat bit of timing," Brolund said.

During his talk at the UN, Brolund emphasized the need to try and get ahead of wildfires as the climate changes.

"I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to go on the world stage and speak to the challenge and say, you know, we need to be thinking bigger than we are today.

"I don't know that there is a number that's big enough. We get $200,000 a year now," he said, referring to wildfire mitigation funding.

"I could easily put a million dollars a year to work and that's five times what we get but we'll continue to make use of every single dollar."

The other unintended benefit is all of the exposure and goodwill should help this year's recruitment program.

"It's timely, we need people to start in January, to be ready for next year's wildfire season," says Brolund.

A recruitment information session is planned for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Glenrosa Firehall Station 34, 3399 Gates Road, if you're interested in learning more about what life as a firefighter looks like.