A firefighter works on steep terrain to contain the Elaho forest fire near Pemberton.

Fire season shaping up as one of the worst

Cost on pace with firestorm 2003, where Barriere, Okanagan Park fires burned homes, businesses rail trestles

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has spent more than $80 million so far this year battling forest fires, on a pace for one of the worst fire seasons on record.

There were 27 new fire starts reported in B.C. on Sunday alone, with 184 active fires being fought across the province and nine evacuation alerts and orders in effect as of Monday affecting 800 homes.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the unusual early dry spell has provincial costs running ahead of 2003, where devastating fires at Barriere near Kamloops and in the Okanagan destroyed or damaged 238 homes and burned 12 wooden trestles in the Myra Canyon stretch of the historic Kettle Valley Railway.

The 2009 fire season is the most expensive on record, with $382 million spent, compared to $375 million in 2003. Those years also saw prolonged drought, but it set in later in the summer.

A tree-faller was killed Sunday while working on a fire on the Sunshine Coast, the latest reminder of the danger of firefighting. In 2010, two air tanker pilots were killed, and a helicopter pilot died fighting a fire in 2009.

Smoke is noticeable in the air in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island.

There is no budget limit for forest fire expenditures. While the costs have to be accounted for after the season, de Jong said he is more concerned with the continued carelessness of people despite the financial and human costs.

“I was driving down the highway yesterday and I saw someone throw a cigarette out of their car,” de Jong said. “Give your head a shake. I don’t know what is wrong with people who wantonly put other people’s lives and property at risk.”

B.C. has often lent its experienced fire crews to other jurisdictions, but in 2009 more than 1,800 people were brought in from most other provinces, the U.S. and even Australia and New Zealand.

That may be more difficult this season, with severe conditions across Western Canada. In Saskatchewan, where 12,000 people have fled their homes, Premier Brad Wall announced Monday that up to 1,000 Canadian Forces troops may be called in to help.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Snow expected to hit West Kootenay passes overnight on Thursday

Up to 15 cm of snow could fall on Highway 3 between Paulson summit to Kootenay Pass by Friday morning

Former Grand Forks fire chief suing city for wrongful dismissal

Dale Heriot was fired in July 2019 after his department was investigated for safety, bullying issues

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary seeks online feedback on transit, housing

Surveys on the RDKB’s website are asking for input to help plan for the future

School District 51 staff iron out plan for return to classrooms

Teachers are looking for a comprehensive health and safety plan to be in place before June 1

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

COVID-19 checkpoints ‘up to them,’ Bonnie Henry says of remote B.C. villages

Support local tourism economy, but only if you’re invited in

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

Most Read