Opinion

B.C.’s forest fire bills piling up

The B.C. government is spending $3.5 million a day to fight forest fires around the province, with the total for the year past $106 million and headed higher.

The government is bracing for bills that could reach $250 million by the end of the summer, depending on weather and the number of fires that threaten homes. B.C. has brought in firefighters from Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick, and issued several evacuation orders by the mid-point of the summer season.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong asked for B.C. residents to take all possible precautions and observe campfire bans through August. About 40 per cent of B.C. forest fires are of human origin, with most of the rest started by lightning strikes.

Forest fire spending is already approaching totals for the last two years. Highs in the past decade are $382 million in 2009 and $371 million in 2003, when fires damaged Kelowna and Barriere.

“The possibility of the fire season consuming a quarter billion tax dollars is real,” de Jong said. “Whilst there is no issue about spending the money, it has to come from somewhere, so that’s a cost item that’s looking like it will be considerably more than what had been hoped for.”

 

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