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.


Just Posted

Kitimat is one step closer to securing LNG plant

Horgan offers incentives, introducing a new approach toward LNG projects on the North Coast.

Australian company Woodside ends Grassy Point LNG project

Woodside and Chevron still committed to Kitimat LNG

UPDATE: Haisla Girls – 2018 Junior All-Native basketball tournament

Despite spirited performances Haisla girls lose two of their matches

Kitimat could get bicycle lanes in the future

This project will allow for cyclists no different than any other sidewalk in the community.

Diver airlifted following accident at navy shipwreck

The diver was kept in the chamber while the barge was towed to Hartley Bay

Vancouver Aquarium’s resident octopus released into ocean

Staff let the Giant Pacific octopus go into the waters near Bowen Island so she can reproduce

Uber self-driving crash video calls safety, rules into question

Experts say footage shows that vehicle’s sensors should have spotted pedestrian, initiated braking

Greens’ Elizabeth May, NDP’s Kennedy Stewart join B.C. anti-pipeline protest

The two politicians could be arrested for violating a court injunction

B.C. man shot by police in 2017 pleads guilty to string of offences

Kaymen Winter gets two years, opts for trial on two charges related to Salmon Arm car wash shooting

Are you going to turn off the lights for Earth Hour?

BC Hydro report says fewer people in the province are taking part, but feel it’s still important

Marijuana edibles won’t be regulated in 2018

Health Canada says edible regulation is still more than a year away

Fat joke on B.C. school’s sign not appropriate, woman says

Surrey mother says weight issues are no laughing matter

McMaster out, Bolton in as Trump’s national security adviser

President Donald is replacing National security adviser H.R. McMaster with John Bolton

Two killed, dozen hurt in French supermarket hostage-taking

French counterterrorism prosecutors are taking charge of the investigation into the shooting of a police officer in southern France

Most Read