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B.C. wildfire budget already spent for 2015

June 30, 2015 – British Columbia has burned through its wildfire firefighting budget for 2015, battling massive blazes across the province.

The provincial government had budgeted $63 million for direct firefighting this year, but the province has already spent more than $68 million as of June 30 battling forest fires, with the majority of the costs attributed to major fires at Little Bobtail Lake (Prince George Fire Centre), Cisco Road/Lytton (Kamloops Fire Centre) and Elaho Valley (Coastal Fire Centre).

In total, the province has responded to 656 fires since April 1, 2015.

Despite the budget being spent prior to the hottest months, the province will still be well equipped to handle future forest fires this year.

“When actual costs exceed the direct fire budget allocation, the B.C. Wildfire Service has statutory authorization to receive additional funds,” explained Navi Saini, information officer for the B.C. Wildfire Service. “The government funds any direct fire spending, in excess of the allocation, through forecast allowance and/or contingencies [determined by the Ministry of Finance]. The Ministry of Finance, through Treasury Board Staff, monitors spending throughout and after fire season and makes the necessary adjustments to provide sufficient funding.”

The budget for battling forest fires is purposely kept lower than necessary to avoid stranding unspent funds during a mild fire season.

“If the budget was increased, but the province experienced a mild fire season, such as 2006, when only $47 million was spent, then unspent funds would remain stranded in the vote and could not be used for other vital public services,” explained Saini. 

On average, approximately 2,000 wildfires occur annually in British Columbia, with half caused by people and half caused by lightning. The current 10-year average, taken from 2004 to 2013, is 1,847 fires, 38.5 per cent (712 fires) caused by people and 61.5 per cent (1,135 fires) caused by lightning.

June 30, 2015  By  Andrew Snook

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