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)

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.

BC legislaturebc wildfires

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The school is very proud of these students (pictured, left to right): Halim Demir (holding Grace Valdez’ gold certificate); Lauren McIlwain, Shayleen Mack, Jaymen Schieck, Kyle Doiron, and Finn Carlson (photo submitted)
SAMS students excel in international competition

The SAMS team swept their category this year; all six participants received awards

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

The avalanche came down on the highway sometime Sunday evening (Feb. 21) (Dawson photo)
Road to Bella Coola wharf reopens after large avalanche

The road was closed after a large avalanche covered a significant portion of the highway

Jenni Mueller lives near the wharf on the other side of the avalanche. She took this photo and thinks the avalanche happened around 8 p.m. last night (February 21). (Jenni Mueller photo)
Avalanche closes road to wharf at Bella Coola

A day and night of heavy rain resulted in avalanches across the region

Fisheries and Oceans Canada released it's 2021 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan Feb. 19. (File photo)
Northern herring opportunities kept to a minimum

2021 management plan caps Prince Rupert fishery at 5 per cent

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in B.C. woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

A kid in elementary school wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Metro Creative)
Union asks why an elementary school mask rule wouldn’t work in B.C. if it does elsewhere

B.C. education minister announced expansion of mask-wearing rules in middle, high school but not elementary students

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Carolyn Howe, a kindergarten teacher and vice president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, says educators are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of pressure that comes with it. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Stress leave, tears and insomnia: B.C. teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

Teachers still adjusting to mask and cleaning rules, pressures from outside and within

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Most Read