Cathy MacKenzie Receives 2024 Lynn Orstad Award: Celebrating Women in Wildfire Resiliency

Apr 25, 2024

As an inspiring tribute to her unwavering dedication and exceptional contributions to wildfire resilience, Cathy MacKenzie, a treasured member of the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society (FNESS), has been honoured as a recipient of the 2024 Lynn Orstad Award for Women in Wildfire Resiliency.

The Lynn Orstad Award is an annual award that celebrates the remarkable achievements of women in British Columbia or Alberta who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to wildfire resilience and advocacy. Cathy’s receipt of this esteemed award is a testament to her tireless efforts and profound impact in the field.

Cathy’s journey in wildfire resilience began in 2003 when she was hired by the Regional District of the Central Okanagan in the aftermath of a devastating wildfire that destroyed homes. Charged with the critical task of identifying and mitigating hazardous forest fuels within the district’s jurisdiction, Cathy embarked on a mission that would span almost two decades.

Throughout her career, Cathy has exhibited unparalleled creativity, innovation, and diligence as a practitioner of FireSmart principles and processes. Her adeptness in securing funding and implementing fuel management initiatives in parks, conducting prescribed burns, organizing volunteer cleanups, and spearheading demonstration projects underscored her visionary leadership and commitment to community safety.

Notably, Cathy’s creativity shone through in her solution-oriented approach to challenges, exemplified by her utilization of an Air Curtain to minimize smoke during debris disposal—a testament to her resourcefulness and problem-solving skills.

Described by her colleagues as both compassionate and passionate, Cathy’s advocacy for FireSmart initiatives within local governments has been unwavering. In her role as a Wildfire Mitigation Liaison for FNESS, she has dedicated herself to serving and supporting First Nation communities in the Thompson Okanagan and Vancouver Island regions, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of wildfire resilience.

Cathy’s professional journey is punctuated by numerous triumphs, with notable examples including her pivotal role in mitigating the Peachland wildfire in 2012 and the McDougall Creek Wildfire in 2023, where her fuel treatment areas served as the frontline for firefighters to battle the blaze.

As we extend our heartfelt congratulations to Cathy MacKenzie, we also express our profound gratitude for her unwavering dedication and invaluable contributions in safeguarding communities against the threat of wildfires. She is a shining beacon of inspiration and a true asset to the FNESS family.