Costs soar as B.C. fights wildfires

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Finance Minister Carole James says the worst wildfire season in British Columbia’s history is expected to put a dent in the provincial budget as firefighters battle the largest blaze on record.

“We’re tracking $389 million over the February budget estimate right now, and we’re only halfway through the season,” James said Tuesday as she released B.C.’s public accounts.

She said firefighting costs will be included in next month’s financial update before the province releases its full budget in February.

Kevin Skrepnek with the BC Wildfire Service said a record-breaking 10,200 square kilometres of forest and grasslands have burned across the province since April and the number is expected to climb with more dry weather ahead.

“This is the highest area of land burned that we have ever had in the province’s history stretching back to 1912, which is the earliest we have got records on hand,” he said from Williams Lake.

Skrepnek said 134 fires were burning in B.C. on Tuesday and that calmer and cooler conditions in recent days have helped firefighting efforts.

The largest fires, including a historic blaze west of Quesnel that is more than 4,600 square kilometres in size, have not grown since Monday.

Conditions have also eased around a wildfire sparked nearly two weeks ago in southeastern B.C., prompting the Regional District of Central Kootenay to rescind evacuation orders and alerts.

Officials said residents would be allowed to return early Tuesday evening to nearly 40 properties that were evacuated on Aug. 12 as an aggressive wildfire flared 20 kilometres southwest of Salmo.

The fire closed Highway 6 leading to the Canada-U.S. border crossing at Nelway, and travellers have been advised to check the DriveBC website for the latest information on when roads will reopen.

The B.C. Wildfire Service site shows the blaze had scorched about four square kilometres of bush and was 50-per-cent contained.

Chris Duffy with Emergency Management BC said roughly 2,600 people are still displaced by evacuation orders — down from 3,800 reported Monday. Another 12,400 people remain on evacuation alert, meaning they must be ready to leave if an evacuation order is issued.

Skrepnek said thunderstorms are expected to bring gusty winds and lightning to the central Interior later this week and could hinder firefighting efforts.

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

WATCH: Festival of Trees begins

A preview dinner and silent auction was held Wednesday night at Westerner Park

Medicinal marijuana referral clinic to open in Red Deer this month

Local Compass Cannabis Clinic to open by Nov. 30

Proposed trails for Riverside Meadows could provide “natural surveillance”

A proposal to add trails to Riverside Meadows has some residents hoping… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Bower Place aims to demolish Target, redevelop east side of mall

A major design of Bower Place could see the now-vacant Target demolished… Continue reading

Nutrition program continues to fuel students

Red Deer school expands program

Exclusive Video: Joshua Frank explains shooting Gordon, Sandra and Monica Klaus

Frank and Jason Klaus are facing triple murder charges in the deaths Klaus’ parents and sister

Liberals propose billions for affordable housing, including individual benefits

A Liberal government fond of promising help for those working hard to… Continue reading

Alberta Party sees growth in Central Alberta

Greg Clark addressed health care needs addressed in Red Deer

Ponoka council freezes Ponoka Fire Department spending

All discretionary spending frozen until full budget numbers are presented

WATCH: Ponoka’s Festival of Trees sees continued support

Three days of celebration and fundraising held at the Calnash Ag Event Centre

Creationist will speak at home-schooling convention in Red Deer

Ken Ham has debated Bill Nye on the Earth’s origins

Update: Innisfail girl found

A 15-year-old missing Innisfail girl has been located safe and sound. Police… Continue reading

Cost to fix Phoenix pay system to surpass $540 million, auditor general says

The federal government’s chronic salary struggles will take more time and more… Continue reading

Red Deer Christmas Bureau to help 1,300 children this year

Demand is high, but Red Deer always provides

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month