British Columbia

B.C. promises $50 million to help municipalities and First Nations fund fire prevention projects

The B.C. government is changing its approach to wildfire prevention and has pledged to give $50 million over three years to help local governments and First Nations target fire risks in their communities.

Funding is first step to address the ‘gaps’ in wildfire prevention, says B.C. minister of forests

Verne Tom photographs a wildfire burning along a logging road approximately 20 kilometres southwest of Fort St. James, B.C., on Aug. 15. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The B.C. government is changing its approach to wildfire prevention and has pledged to give $50 million over three years to help local governments and First Nations target fire risks in their communities.

The funding announcement Monday comes as communities across the province continue to deal with the aftermath of the 2018 wildfire season.  

"This is a marked departure from how past governments have helped municipalities and First Nations mitigate wildfire risks," said B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.

No more cost-sharing

The new Community Resiliency Investment Program allows local leaders to apply for funding to cover 100 per cent  of its wildfire risk reduction projects instead of the previous cost-sharing model.

Donaldson described it as "more targeted funding" that will create a holistic approach to wildfire risk reduction. 

The money will support prevention activities on both provincial Crown land and private land, as well as local government and reserve land.

The project funding will be administered by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

This year was the worst fire season on record in B.C. (@CONAFOR/Twitter)

Addressing 'gaps' in fire prevention

The 2018 wildfire season was record-breaking in its destructiveness, with more than 13,000 square kilometres burned in B.C.  

This was also the second year in a row when a provincial state of emergency was declared.

The fire prevention money was initially announced as part of the 2018 budget, but details of the program were just recently released.

Up to $10 million will be available this fiscal year and another $20 million available in each of the following two fiscal years.

"It's a significant amount of money," Donaldson told Gregor Craigie, the host of CBC's On The Island.

"It's our government taking the first steps toward rectifying many of the topics outlined in the [fire report] around how there were gaps, and the government didn't take wildfire prevention seriously enough."

Applications for the money, which are evaluated by the B.C. FireSmart Committee,  opened this week and will close on Dec. 7, 2018.  

The funding announcement on Monday comes as communities across the province continue to deal with the aftermath of the 2018 wildfire season. 7:34

With files from On The Island.

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