Data breach may have exposed personal information of 15,000 applicants for firefighter jobs

The British Columbia Ministry of Forests has announced that a hacker accessed their computer system and may have obtained personal data about 15,000 individuals who applied for wildland firefighting jobs. The agency is in the process of notifying those who may be affected.

The databases were accessed by an unauthorized user on Sept. 24, 2014. As soon as the breach was discovered, public website access to the databases was shut down. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is conducting a thorough review of the incident in co-operation with the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

This incident may have resulted in some personal information being unlawfully accessed, including the name, gender, general contact information, date of birth, driver’s license number and job evaluation information of past wildfire crew firefighter job applicants. In some cases, information that applicants entered about their status as an Aboriginal, minority or disabled person may also have been viewed.

The government is notifying the individuals who are affected by this incident and could be at risk of harm as a result. People who require notification will be contacted by mail or other means.

In addition, the government is making credit protection services available at no cost to all of the individuals concerned. Persons who may be affected and who are being notified should call 1 844 456-2284 (toll-free from anywhere in Canada) for information about how to sign up for credit protection services.

Some of the database records are up to 10 years old and contacting all of the individuals in a timely manner may be difficult, so the Wildfire Management Branch is also reaching out to past job applicants through the media and its own social media channels.

Wildfire one liners, August 20, 2014

Inyo Hotshots
Inyo Hotshots. USFS photo.

New Hotshot crew: The USFS Forest Service has announced that there is a new Interagency Hotshot Crew on the Inyo National Forest in California.

Foreign aid to Washington: A group of volunteers from Israel is helping residents of Pateros, Washington recover from a devastating wildfire.

How will British Columbia pay for wildfires: While the United States is struggling to make decisions about how to pay for the rising costs of wildfires, British Columbia has similar issues.

Smokey Bear to be Grand Marshall: Smokey Bear will be the Grand Marshall of the New Mexico State Fair parade on September 13 in Albuquerque, in honor of his 70th birthday celebration. September 19 will be Firefighter and Smokey Bear Day at the fair.

1979 British Columbia rappelling film

This film, released in 1979 by the Province of British Columbia Ministry of Forests Protection Branch, introduced viewers to the “Rapattack” program — firefighters rappelling from helicopters to suppress wildfires.

British Columbia: Chelaslie River Fire

map Chelaslie River Fire

The Chelaslie River Fire 126 miles west of Prince George has burned over a quarter of a million acres in British Columbia. Authorities have issued evacuation orders for Entiako Provincial Park and the west half of the Tetachuck Lake area.

The 264,000-acre (107,000 hectares) fire, discovered July 8, started from lightning. It is being fought by 290 personnel and 18 helicopters.

The description of current activities found on the British Columbia government website uses some jargon that may be foreign to firefighters in other countries:

Heavy equipment continues to be utilized to establish new machine guards and contain new fire perimeters. Firefighters are establishing new contingency guards and mopping-up spot fires outside the fire perimeter. A second Wildfire Management Branch camp has been implemented on the Northern side of this fire.

Massive wildfires in Northwest Territories exceed 25 year average

NWT_fire2

Fires in Canada’s Northwest Territories have burned six times more hectares than the 25-year average, according to data from the Canadian Interagency Fire Center.

There are 224 fires burning to-date in the Northwest Territories–that’s almost double the 25-year average of 156. Data shows that the fires have consumed 872,374 hectares (that’s more than 2 million acres).

Check out the Northwest Territories fire management’s Facebook page for some stunning photos of the Birch Creek Complex fires. (Climate Central did a great article on the history of fires in the area and pointed out some of this data, read it here.)

This summer Western Canada is seeing one of its most active fire seasons in more than a decade. More than 150 fires were burning in the western province of British Columbia as of last week.

While the far-west Yukon territory is seeing a below-average fire season, several fires in the Northwest Territories are pushing heavy smoke into BC and Alberta. Last week, smoke from Canadian fires obscured skylines on the American east coast.

Smoke from fires in the Northwest Territories, from NOAA's Fire Detection program.
Smoke from fires in the Northwest Territories, from NOAA’s Fire Detection program.

Portions of south-central BC have been issued extreme fire danger warnings for Sunday.

Here are some updates on a couple of the fires we’ve been following:

  • The Smith Creek Fire in West Kelowna is now 30 percent contained, and officials have lifted some evacuation orders for certain residential neighborhoods, local media reports. 
  • The Mount McAllister fire  northeastern BC had burned 16,000 hectares (almost 40,000 acres) as of Sunday morning, and is still uncontained. Last week the fire forced the evacuation of the entire town of Hudson’s Hope — the evacuation was later lifted, and no homes have been destroyed.