British Columbia

Can I get a refund on my vacation booking near a wildfire? It depends

Campers with reservations at provincial parks could be eligible for automatic refunds. Tourists booked at smaller resorts will need to work with individual operators.

Campers booked at provincial parks could be eligible for automatic refunds

This was the view after a small fire broke out behind Sky Hi Lodge on Friday, July 7 at Hihium Lake in Cache Creek, B.C. Owner Bruce McKenzie says two days later, they were ordered to evacuate. (Bruce McKenzie/Sky Hi Lodge)

Tourists concerned about their vacation bookings near B.C.'s wildfires are looking at a wide range of refund policies.

More than 65 provincial parks are closed, and a number of resorts have been evacuated due to wildfires that have been burning out of control in the Interior since last Friday.

According to the province's website, campers with reservations at any of the closed parks can expect an automatic refund but, at this point, only for arrival dates up to and including July 19.

Parks that have become inaccessible due to fire-related highway closures or have become too smoky are also eligible for refunds on a case-by-case basis.

Air Canada's website says passengers with reservations to affected areas can rebook without a change fee.

It adds that those who must fly into Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Prince George or Williams Lake can get a 25 per cent discount on their tickets.

'Can't fight Mother Nature'

Owners at resorts around wildfire areas have also had to work with guests to offer refunds and rearrange travel plans.

On Sunday, Bruce McKenzie, owner of Sky Hi Lodge near Cache Creek, says he had to bang on the door of his guests at 1 a.m. to alert them the resort had to be evacuated.

Just two days prior, he had already sent a number of families home when a small fire broke out nearby.

"You can't fight Mother Nature, so I'm certainly not going to hold people to their bookings," he said.

However, in a "streak of luck," he says, he bought insurance for the first time to cover loss of income due to fires and should be eligible for up to $25,000 for a span of up to 30 days.

The usual view outside Sky Hi Lodge in Cache Creek, when it isn't threatened by encroaching wildfires. (Bruce McKenzie/Sky Hi Lodge)

Closer to 100 Mile House at Spring Lake Ranch, Myrna Barkowsky hasn't been ordered to evacuate but still isn't feeling so fortunate.

She says about half of her guest bookings have been cancelled for the months ahead and she isn't sure her insurance will cover the loss.

Highway closures have also made it more difficult to get to her resort. Anyone travelling northbound needs to take an hour-and-a-half detour through the backcountry.

Barkowsky says the added distance can be a deterrent ,but it doesn't mean she's offered everyone full refunds.

"For some, that could have got here but chose not to, then we kept the ... deposit," she said. "But if they have little children, we didn't."

While  much of the area surrounding 100 Mile House has been evacuated, she says her resort has not been impacted by the fires or smoke.

"It's rather difficult because when you look outside, it's beautiful."