A firefighter works on steep terrain to contain the Elaho forest fire near Pemberton.

Fire season shaping up as one of the worst

Cost on pace with firestorm 2003, where Barriere, Okanagan Park fires burned homes, businesses rail trestles

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has spent more than $80 million so far this year battling forest fires, on a pace for one of the worst fire seasons on record.

There were 27 new fire starts reported in B.C. on Sunday alone, with 184 active fires being fought across the province and nine evacuation alerts and orders in effect as of Monday affecting 800 homes.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the unusual early dry spell has provincial costs running ahead of 2003, where devastating fires at Barriere near Kamloops and in the Okanagan destroyed or damaged 238 homes and burned 12 wooden trestles in the Myra Canyon stretch of the historic Kettle Valley Railway.

The 2009 fire season is the most expensive on record, with $382 million spent, compared to $375 million in 2003. Those years also saw prolonged drought, but it set in later in the summer.

A tree-faller was killed Sunday while working on a fire on the Sunshine Coast, the latest reminder of the danger of firefighting. In 2010, two air tanker pilots were killed, and a helicopter pilot died fighting a fire in 2009.

Smoke is noticeable in the air in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island.

There is no budget limit for forest fire expenditures. While the costs have to be accounted for after the season, de Jong said he is more concerned with the continued carelessness of people despite the financial and human costs.

“I was driving down the highway yesterday and I saw someone throw a cigarette out of their car,” de Jong said. “Give your head a shake. I don’t know what is wrong with people who wantonly put other people’s lives and property at risk.”

B.C. has often lent its experienced fire crews to other jurisdictions, but in 2009 more than 1,800 people were brought in from most other provinces, the U.S. and even Australia and New Zealand.

That may be more difficult this season, with severe conditions across Western Canada. In Saskatchewan, where 12,000 people have fled their homes, Premier Brad Wall announced Monday that up to 1,000 Canadian Forces troops may be called in to help.

 

Just Posted

Greater Victoria enjoys sunny first day of spring

Summer-like temperatures of 21 degrees hit Wednesday for first day of spring

Esquimalt puts freeze on taxes for local businesses

The tax increase for residents sits at 5.51 per cent, averaging to an additional $46

Bitter Saturna land-use dispute highlights legal grey areas

Unhappy Tsawout accuse leadership of cultural destruction

Development replacing Fairfield United Church gets final approval

The new Unity Commons Development will take over the space at 1303 Fairfield Rd.

Saanich forwards student-targeted development to public hearing

Proposed development advertises itself to individuals who want a car-free lifestyle

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Mayor meets with B.C. health minister on homeless taxi transfers

Two homeless people were discharged from Surrey Memorial and sent to a Chilliwack shelter

B.C. lottery winner being sued by co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

Volunteer green team joins forces to restore local habitats

Partnerships with schools educate and facilitate remediations

Most Read