Premier Christy Clark says the province will spend “as much as is needed” to fight the ever-increasing number of forest fires across the province…
“When we go through the budget making process we make that decision, so ya know we had a billion dollar surplus almost this year, and ya know, even if we didn’t we would still be spending as much money as we need to, to make sure we put out those fires.”
So far 62-thousand hectares have burned in wildfires, nearly four times the ten-year average for this time of year.
“The very first thing British Columbians want to know that we’re doing is making sure we’re doing everything we cannot scrimping and saving to make sure we put out those fires as quickly as we can.”
Clark says about 50-per cent of all fires are human-caused.
The Chair of BC’s independent watchdog for forest practices says he isn’t surprised the province has already burned through most of its wildfire suppression budget.
Timothy Ryan with the Forest Practices Board says most communities are still at risk of a catastrophic wildfire.
He says local and provincial governments aren’t doing enough to remove fuel sources through controlled burns, brush removal, and tree pruning, to reduce the risk.
“The government has limited resources. We need to help the government set its priorities, so if this is a priority for us in our communities then we need to make sure we make that phone call, or make that visit, or talk to the government officials to make sure they understand this is a very important issue, and if it’s a very important issue, it requires more dollars.”
But the President of the Union of BC Municipalities, Sav Dhaliwal, says the province has dished out more than 68 million dollars in the past 10 years through the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative.
“Over 300 communities have received funding, and we know that most communities are surrounded by forest for the scale of challenge is really considerable.”
While the Board says only 10 percent of hazardous forest fuels have been treated, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says wildfire risks built up over decades, so it will likely take decades to reduce.