Wildfire suppression costs near half-a-billion dollars

By Greg Fry
September 11, 2017 - 2:01pm

KAMLOOPS — The cost of fighting wildfires in B.C. is about to hit another unenviable milestone.

During a teleconference today, Kevin Skrepnek, chief fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, said the total tally of fighting the blazes as of Sunday, September 10, has hit $499.4 million.

He also noted the wildfire season is far from over considering there are still 168 fires burning in the province, including nine new starts Sunday.

"There have been 1,236 fires since the start of the season April 1, burning a total of 1,169,126 hectares," said Skrepnek. "There are just under 3,000 firefighters and personnel working those fires including 261 out-of-province personnel and 1,400 contractors."

Though weather conditions were favourable in much of the province over the weekend, he said the fire season still faces challenges, especially in the East Kootenays where the 1,800-hectare Lamb Creek fire continues to rage.

He said the biggest concern is complacency, adding the season has "another few weeks or a month at least" left in it.

Of note in this region, he said there was no new growth on the 192,000-hectare Elephant Hill fire. That blaze remains 50 per cent contained.

Chris Duffy, executive director of emergency operations with Emergency Management BC, said there are still 13 evacuation orders in place affecting more than 4,200 B.C. residents and 32 alerts affecting more than 10,400.

He said all highways are now open in B.C., including Highway 24, north of Kamloops where the order there has been partially downgraded to an alert.

And one week removed from last week's announcement that farmers would receive $20 million in help from the provincial and federal goverments, B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said ranchers continue to exhibit "a positive spirit" despite the challenges they continue to face.

"As we move into the recovery phase of this disaster, I'm proud of the spirit I've heard from ranchers. Their stories have been heartbreaking but they continue to exhibit a positive spirit showing people haven't given up."

The $20 million will be utilized by ranchers for such things as vet bills, transportation and feed costs, labour for fence repairs and to cover loss of crops.


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