Cool, wet summer means B.C. wildfire relief

Wet weather and cooler temperatures mean B.C. taxpayers are getting a break from the cost of fighting wildfires this summer.

Wet weather and cooler temperatures mean B.C. taxpayers are getting a break from the cost of fighting wildfires this summer.

"We've had the lowest number of fire starts in the last eight years because of the weather," said Margie Drysdale with the coastal fire centre in Parksville.

And it's the same story in much of the province. There have been 300 fewer wildfires throughout B.C. this year — about a quarter the number there were at this time last year.

Fiona Tollovsen from the provincial wildfire coordination centre in Kamloops said B.C. has spent about $38 million fighting wildfires so far this year — but about $18 million of that was spent sending crews to fight fires in Alberta, Alaska and Ontario.

"In the past, we've always relied on other provinces to send their crews to us to assist us, so this opportunity to send our crews to other jurisdictions is really good," she said.

Tollovsen said much of that money will be repaid, bringing B.C.'s total wildfire expenditures down even more.

"We have an agreement in place that when we send our crews to different regions, they will cover the cost of that and when we have a final tally of how much that will be we'll be able to minus that and recover that money," Tollovsen said.

The most the province has ever spent fighting wildfires was $382 million in 2009.

The budget this year is about $63 million, but Tollovsen said that also includes the cost of hiring and training crews.