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How will BC pay for its rising wildfire-fighting costs?

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – With the summer wildfire budget going up in smoke this season, will the province have enough money to pick up the tab?

The original amount set aside was $63 million, but so far over $200 million has been spent.

Kevin Skrepnek with Wildfire Management Branch tells News1130 that amount will continue to rise because it’s costing upwards of $3 million a day to battle the blazes.

So, where will the extra money come from?

Steve Thomson, BC’s minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, says the money is already there. “We have access to contingencies. That has always been the case. In some years, we go above that and access the contingencies. In other years, it is below that amount.”

Thomson notes an annual budget is created and it is usually a modest estimate, with the knowledge that it might need to be increased.

“But what we don’t want to do is have a lot of funds in voter appropriation stranded that could be used for other vital public services. So, it is a number that is put in each year, but we know we have access to contingencies when required.”

Thomson says whatever the final amount will be, there will be enough to cover the cost of this year’s wildfire season.

He points out in the last decade, the price to fight wildfires has ranged from a peak of $382 million (2010) to a low of $47 million.