British Columbia

B.C. burning through wildfire budget

Lightning strikes during hot dry conditions this spring have sparked enough fires to burn through more than 80 per cent of the cash set aside to fight wildfires in B.C. this year.

B.C. Wildfire Management Branch has already spent $52.5 million of its $63 million budget for this year

Firefighter Jake Sparks pauses for a moment at the Smith Creek fire near West Kelowna, B.C., in July 2014, one of the worst fire seasons on record for the province. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Lightning strikes during hot dry conditions this spring have sparked enough fires to burn through more than 80 per cent of the cash set aside to fight wildfires in B.C. this year. 

The B.C. Wildfire Management Branch has already spent $52.5 million of its $63 million budget for this year, said fire information officer Ryan Turcot.

In total firefighters have responded to nearly 500 fires already this year, about half of which were lightning-caused and half of which were human-caused, he said.

"The total number of fires responded to this year is a little bit above average, but the increase we're seeing is entirely due to an abnormally high amount of lightning caused fires."

Over 60,000 hectares have burned to date, well above the 10-year average of 16,327 hectares, he said.

"But it is worth noting that over 43,000 of this year's hectares burned are just due to two fires: Little Bobtail Lake fire, as well as the Dunedin fire up in the far north."

Extra expenses

In previous years when wildfires have required more than the budgeted amount, the provincial government has drawn cash from its contingency fund to cover the extra expenses.

That is what happened in 2014, the third worst season on record, when 1,424 fires consumed more than 359,000 hectares, costing the government $293 million in firefighting efforts.

The worst two B.C. fire seasons recorded were 1958 when fires burned 859,000 hectares and 1961 when 483,000 hectares of land was burned.

The Little Bobtail Lake fire burned through 25,569 hectares of land before it was contained earlier this year. (B.C. Wildfire Management Branch)

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.