Wildfire bill approaches a quarter-billion dollars

By James Peters
August 8, 2017 - 5:53pm

KAMLOOPS — One month after the province declared a state of emergency due to the raging wildfires throughout BC, there are no signs of the situation letting up.

Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek says the Elephant Hill fire to the west of Kamloops remains the number one priority for provincial crews, thanks to the proximity to nearby homes.

"Most of the major fires we're still fighting today are the fires that started on July 7, when we had an unseasonable stretch of hot and dry weather, and then a pretty significant lightning system move through the central part of the province. It's been off to the races since then," said Skrepnek. "We have had a state of emergency in place across the province since then, so for over a month now."

"I'd say Elephant Hill is our number one priority right now, but certainly we've got some huge fires burning throughout the Chilcotin and elsewhere in the Cariboo right now, all of them fires of note, all of them being resourced quite heavily. We're bringing in additional personnel from around the world and from elsewhere in Canada to assist. Realistically, with this weather, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, so we're preparing ourselves for that."

"The terrain in that area has been a big challenge and the wind. Right at the top of the Thompson River canyon, so it's a major wind tunnel and then it comes right into that fire, and you can see how it's gone from south to north since then. Lots of wind shifting as well."

Skrepnek notes the bill for fighting the fires is approaching a quarter of a billion dollars.

"Currently estimated at $234 million as of (Tuesday). Obviously that number is going to climb, and continue to climb as the situation unfolds. The government's always going to spend what's necessary, and certainly we've had to bring in a lot of additional resources this season just given the severity of what we're dealing with."

Hot, dry conditions see 28 new wildfire starts in less than two days in B.C.