The Beatton wildfire near Fort St. John was one of a rash of early-season fires in the spring of 2016, started in dry grass after snow cover melted. (Black Press files)

B.C. wildfire prevention budget bulked up as dry spring unfolds

Night vision goggles tested for early detection effort

The B.C. government has increased its base budget for wildfire response to more than $100 million, including new technology for responding quickly when fires start.

The provincial government increased its base budget 58 per cent for this year, after two record fire seasons in a row and continued calls for increased prevention efforts in interface areas around communities. Preparations begin as a cold winter recedes, potentially creating dry spring conditions.

The base budget is an arbitrary amount, with the actual spending in severe wildfire seasons going as high as $400 million. In the record fire seasons of 2017 and 2018, the total topped $600 million as crews and equipment were called in from as far away as Australia.

This year’s base budget includes an additional $50 million community resiliency program to help local governments and Indigenous communities lower the wildfire risk around communities. It’s a long-awaited effort to implement recommendations from former Manitoba premier Gary Filmon after the 2003 wildfire season destroyed homes in the Okanagan.

READ MORE: Myths and facts about fighting B.C. wildfires

READ MORE: 8 things you need to know about B.C.’s budget

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said this year’s effort includes testing of night vision goggles by aerial crews to detect new fires earlier. But the key is prevention, including an expanded prescribed burning program with an initial $10 million budget, Donaldson said.

The B.C. Wildfire Service has more than 1,600 firefighters and support staff prepared for the 2019 season, with initial attack crews increased in the Northwest and Prince George fire centres to reach remote locations.

Industry equipment teams are being expanded, with joint training workshops involving forest industry crews with heavy equipment and B.C. Wildfire Service personnel to improve response.

The province’s four “Fire Boss” air tankers and spotting aircraft have had their base budget for operation increased from 100 to 120 days. The aircraft can operate from land or water, with a rapid cycle time for dropping water or fire retardant to slow the spread of a wildfire.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Caribou panel hears from critical public

About 250 people turned out Wednesday evening to give feedback on the provincial government’s caribou recovery plans.

Mungall to host CleanBC open house in Nelson

Michelle Mungall is hosting an open house on CleanBC at L.V. Rogers on Tuesday from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Youth climate strikers present to regional district

Next continent-wide school strike for climate planned for Nelson May 3

Glacier Gymnastics wins 12 medals at provincials

The club sent eight athletes to the event

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Most Read