Moving From Response to Recovery on BC Wildfires
Prince George, B.C. – Officials with the BC Wildfire Service say the worst is over on the fire lines in the Cariboo region in the wake of favourable weather conditions over the past week. Most fires in the Cariboo Fire Centre are under control and fire activity has decreased significantly.
Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek stresses that “there is still a tremendous amount of work that has to be done on the ground, and there still is a very real danger as well, not so much from fire activity but just from the damage those fires have left in their wake in terms of damaged trees and structures.”
He notes that there are area restrictions in place, “not only for the fires in the Cariboo but also a 5 to 10 kilometre buffer around each fire, especially with us going into hunting season. We still have very active operations out there. On the Plateau fire we still have over 500 personnel out there on a massive, massive fire which is almost the size of Prince Edward Island.”
“So we want people to be aware that there is definitely danger out there in terms of damage that’s been done but no, I think we can say that the worst is over but that’s not a reason for anyone to get complacent.”
The Plateau Complex fire, 60 km west of Quesnel and 60 km northwest of Williams Lake, covers 521,024 hectares and is being held. The Kluskoil Lake fire, 110 km northwest of Quesnel, is also being held and has burned 21,870 hectares. The Hanceville-Riske Creek fire, 60 km southwest of Williams Lake covers 239,673 hectaes, is 70 percent contained and is being held as well.
The Elephant Hill fire which is burning between Highway 24 and Cache Creek covers 192,000 hecatres and is 50 percent contained. Some sections of that fire have received rain while others have not and remain dry however activity has been greatly reduced from what was being seen a week ago.
Highway 24 has been re-opened and, as of today, there are no highway closures due to wildfire in the entire province.
Meantime, B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says efforts continue to get help to ranchers, farmers and other agricultural producers who have been hit hard by the wildfires this summer. “The recovery is not going to be quick or easy,” she says. “I’ve heard from ranchers who have suffered losses but with every call comes a positive spirit as they say they are going to get through this.”
Popham says losses include livestock, animals that have perished, crops and infrastructure. “It’s not just a capital loss but also an emotional loss.” However she points to the joint announcement with the federal government that $20 million is going to be available to BC ranchers and farmers impacted by the fires.”
The money through the Agri Recovery program will help cover veterinary costs, housing and transportation of displaced animals, feed costs and transportation of the feed, re-establishing feed facilities for the coming winter, labour for fencing repair, critical infrastructure that is not covered by insurance as well as lost breeding animals and re-seeding of crops lost to fire.
Popham says “if we have to think outside box in some instances we’re absolutely willing to do that as it is an unprecedented response that we are offering.” She says the type of support and funding that’s on the way should help lessen worries and increase the confidence and optimism of farmers and ranchers to recover from the destruction.
There are 168 fires burning in BC as of today, including 9 new fires that started Sunday. Since April 1st the province has had 1,236 wildfires which have burned an estimated 1,169,126 hectares, a record for a single season in the province. The estimated cost to the BC Wildfire Service, $499.4 million.
There are currently just under 3,000 firefighters and support personnel working throughout the province, including 261 out-of-province personnel and 1,400 contractors.
At this time the area of most concern to the Wildfire Service is the southeast corner in the Kootenays, where conditions remain warm and dry. Further north and throughout Cariboo the week is offering showers and much cooler temperatures virtually every day.