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Co‑operators Celebrates Women in Wildfire Resiliency

May 1, 2024

GUELPH, ON, May 1, 2024 /CNW/ - Co‑operators, FireSmart BC, and FireSmart Alberta have come together to recognize women who have contributed to furthering wildfire resiliency in their community, agency, or province through the Lynn Orstad Award – Women in Wildfire Resiliency.

This annual award was created in memory of Lynn Orstad to honour women who have made significant contributions in wildfire resilience and advocacy efforts. It is presented each year at the Wildfire Resiliency and Training Summit, an event focused on educating participants in various wildfire-related topics and enhancing the effectiveness of wildfire professionals. While last year's award was presented to three outstanding professionals, this year's award was presented to five.

Lynn Orstad

Lynn Orstad was a highly respected fire safety advocate dedicated to furthering wildfire resiliency across all jurisdictions and levels of government. As a female trailblazer in wildfire risk mitigation, she began her career in emergency management and continued working with local community groups and fire departments before eventually retiring as Chair of FireSmart Canada.

Throughout Lynn's career, and even in her personal life, she remained passionate and dedicated to building community and furthering education around wildfire resiliency. She also acted as a mentor to many; including young women that sought and built a career in wildfire risk reduction.

Her unexpected passing in 2021 prompted the opportunity to honour her memory and pass the torch to other female wildfire advocates to help continue the path of making our communities more resilient and encourage other women to enter into careers in emergency management and disaster risk reduction.

Learn more about the Lynn Orstad Award at:

2024 Winners

This year, five outstanding women in the world of wildfire resilience were presented with the Lynn Orstad Award:

Kelsey Winter — Manager of Wildfire Operations, FPInnovations

"Kelsey is a leader in wildfire resiliency, having blazed the trail for FireSmart BC from relative infancy to the expanded and comprehensive program it is now. Under her leadership, the FireSmart BC program expanded from the FCNRP to encompass many other programs, such as the Home Partners Program and Plant Program. She continues her efforts through her work and research with FPInnovations." — Brittany Seibert, City of Penticton

Kara McCurdy — Wildfire Mitigation Program Manager, Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency

"Kara is a one-woman show in Nova Scotia. On almost no budget and zero assistance, she has single-handedly implemented many FireSmart programs, promoted wildfire resiliency actions in many communities, and engaged organizations to participate in various mitigation programs. She's the one voice that is inspiring others across the province to act — and they are acting." — Magda Zachara, CIFFC and FireSmart Canada

Cathy MacKenzie — Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, First Nations' Emergency Services Society

"Cathy was hired by the Regional District of Central Okanagan 20 years ago to manage fire rehabilitation and mitigation works following the calamitous Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire. Since then, she has applied for—and been funded—millions of dollars to mitigate fuels, reach out to the public, educate residents, and advocate for FireSmart. She continues her advocacy efforts today with the First Nations Emergency Services Society." — Robert Mitchell, First Nations Emergency Services Society

Laura Stewart — FireSmart Specialist, Government of Alberta

"Laura is very passionate about FireSmart and pushing all seven disciplines. She served as President of FireSmart Canada for six years, spearheading projects like Wildfire Community Preparedness Day in 2015. She also launched and updated the FireSmart Canada Home Ignition Zone model in 2016, updated the FireSmart Begins at Home Guide, launched the FireSmart Begins at Home app, and developed several FireSmart Canada initiatives including the website, resources, and social media platforms." — Brian Wynn, Whitecourt Fire Department

Melanie Stutt — Emergency Coordinator, Simpcw First Nation and Deputy Fire Chief, Chu Chua Volunteer Fire Department

"Melanie stands out as a formidable advocate for wildfire resiliency. Her proactive stance towards wildfire suppression and response in Simpcw is unmistakable, highlighted by her pivotal role in establishing the Indigenous Initial Attack Wildfire Crew. Melanie's unwavering commitment to community safety is evident, coupled with a dedication to implementing innovative strategies in the relentless pursuit of addressing wildfire challenges. Her advocacy efforts truly embody a proactive and forward-thinking approach to community resilience. — Ron Lampreau, Simpcw First Nation Councillor

About Co‑operators

Co‑operators is a leading Canadian financial services co-operative, offering multi-line insurance and investment products, services, and personalized advice to help Canadians build their financial strength and security. Co‑operators has more than $62 billion in assets under administration. Co‑operators has been providing trusted guidance to Canadians for the past 79 years. The organization is well known for its community involvement and its commitment to sustainability. Achieving carbon neutral equivalency in 2020, the organization is committed to net-zero emissions in its operations and investments by 2040, and 2050, respectively. Cooperators is also ranked as a Corporate Knights' Best 50 Corporate Citizen in Canada. For more information, please visit:

Co‑operators® is a registered trademark of The Cooperators Group Limited. © 2024 The Co‑operators Group Limited.

About FireSmart BC

FireSmart BC is a provincial program committed to reducing the negative impacts of wildfire. It is designed to be the go-to resource for individuals, neighbourhoods, and communities looking to protect themselves and their properties from wildfire. Their resources are based on scientific research that shows that performing simple FireSmart tasks can make properties far more resilient. For more information, please visit:

About FireSmart Alberta

Founded in 2020, FireSmart Alberta grew out of the top recommendation of the Government of Alberta Spring 2019 Wildfire Review Final Report. Their goal is to foster an all-of-society approach to wildfire resiliency in Alberta. FireSmart Alberta works collaboratively and in alignment with FireSmart Canada as a provincial chapter. For more information, please visit:

For further information: 

SOURCE The Co-operators Group Limited

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