Province of B.C. says it's spent $585M so far this year fighting wildfires

$585M firefighting price tag

The B.C. government has spent more than half a billion dollars so far this year fighting a historically bad wildfire season, and that number is expected to continue to rise in the coming weeks as hundreds of blazes continue to burn.

B.C. Forestry Minister Bruce Ralston said during a news conference on Monday afternoon that the price tag for 2023 wildland firefighting costs to date is about $585 million.

Despite that eye-popping figure, Ralston said Victoria is not concerned about running out of money.

"There is no financial challenge to the province — the money is there,” he said. "Whatever it takes to protect people and property, the money is there.”

Cliff Chapman, director of operations for the BC Wildfire Service, said the two biggest line items on the agency’s budget are aircraft and personnel.

“Firefighting is an inherently expensive response business to get into,” he said. "Those aviation assets really add up, in addition to when we bring in ground crews.”

Chapman said BCWS currently has 35 fixed-wing airplanes and 130 helicopters under contract. He said aviation assets typically make up about 40 per cent of the agency’s budget.

The $585-million figure covers only firefighting costs, not money spent operating emergency operations centres or housing wildfire evacuees.

According to BCWS, 377 wildfires are actively burning in B.C. as of Monday afternoon.

Ralston said the province is still facing a "challenging" road ahead in the short term.

“Unfortunately, we are still in the midst of one of our most challenging wildfire seasons on record," he said.

"It is not over by any means.”

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