B.C., Canada — The B.C. government is facing a $209.5-million cost for fighting forest fires this year – a bill that will complicate efforts to manage provincial finances.
“It has been a tough year,” B.C. Forests Minister Pat Bell said yesterday.
He described this week’s numbers as a surprise. “[They] will be a stress on the financial circumstances of the province.”
At this time last year, the bill was only $47.8-million. The seven-year average for forest-fire costs by this time of year is $73.4-million.
This year’s projected firefighting budget was $62-million.
Next month’s budget update will deal with the issue, he said.
Funds to cover the increased costs will be found in general government contingency accounts.
Mr. Bell said major interface blazes – fires threatening property and people – such as the fires in the Kelowna area that forced the evacuation of thousands of residents have been “the big-dollar drivers,” egging costs upward.
“It has been a very dry, hot summer. That has challenged us,” he said.
A total of 2,440 fires this year, largely sparked by lightning, have consumed 133,400 hectares compared with 11,000 last year, and a seven-year average of 74,000.
One firefighter – helicopter pilot Robert Woodhead – is missing and believed to have died after his aircraft crashed into the Fraser River between Lillooet and Lytton last week.