Most of B.C.’s wildfire fighting budget already used up
Summer is just getting underway, but the B.C. government has already burned through nearly 90 per cent of the year’s wildfire fighting budget.
According to the Ministry of Forests, nearly 500 wildfires have broken out since April 1, the bulk of which were sparked in the Prince George fire centre.
As of Monday, the cost of battling those blazes was tallied around $55 million of the $63 million earmarked in the province’s annual budget for wildfires.
“It’s difficult to forecast wildfire suppression costs as each season varies significantly depending on weather conditions and the number and severity of wildfires that we respond to,” a ministry spokesperson said in an email statement.
The Wildfire Management Branch is given automatic approval for additional funding when needed, the spokesperson added, and the province “will always spend what’s necessary to protect people and property.”
In previous years, the total cost of fighting wildfires has doubled and even tripled the government’s budget.
The ministry said it will be recovering some of the costs, including the cost of deploying crews to help battle fires in other provinces. The government also has the power to recover funding, as well as potential damages, from people found responsible for starting wildfires in the province.
In previous years, the money recovered has amounted to a drop in the bucket of overall costs, however. From 2009-2013, B.C. recovered $1.51 million for fire control costs and damage to Crown timber, plus $48,000 in administrative penalties from people who violated the Wildfire Act and other fire-related regulations.
Of the $55 million spent so far this year, about $4 million appears to have been used since Thursday alone, which helped fight new human-caused blazes that broke out near Nanaimo and Pemberton.
More trouble is expected in the coming days as well, with wildfire danger ratings of high to extreme covering large areas of B.C., and soaring temperatures forecast for the weekend.
According to the Wildfire Management Branch, an average of 1,847 fires break out every year, and about 40 per cent are caused by people. The rest are blamed on lightning.