Calls for more wildfire funding in B.C.’s 2024 budget

With each passing summer, it seems like the wildfire situation in B.C. is growing increasingly out of control. Records are being shattered as powerful flames engulf communities, homes are lost, and lives are destroyed.

Ahead of the B.C. budget being tabled on Thursday afternoon, one fire chief is hoping there is more money allocated to help fight wildfires.

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund was on the frontlines last August when one of the province’s biggest wildfires, and the largest in West Kelowna history, broke out. He says they’re grateful and encouraged by the funding and help that’s already been promised, but simply put, they need more.

The McDougall Creek wildfire burns on the mountainside above houses in West Kelowna.
The McDougall Creek wildfire burns on the mountainside above a lakefront home, in West Kelowna, B.C., on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. As students across British Columbia gear up for their return to school next week, parents in communities devastated by wildfires are grappling with what that may look like for their kids. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

“We can use far more than what we’re allotted today, particularly in the area of prevention and mitigation,” explained Brolund. “In my community alone, even after the fire, we have millions and millions of dollars in wildfire prevention and mitigation initiatives that we could be doing that we just don’t have funding more.”

Brolund says advocacy for more money is something that a lot of communities can get behind, adding fighting wildfires is no longer just a summer problem, it’s a year-round problem.

He’s not providing an exact dollar amount for how much money they need, but explains the need is urgent.

“Under the province’s Community Resiliency Investment program (CRI program), we received $200,000, and $100,000 was added to that amount following the wildfires [last] summer, which was a great boost, however, we could easily spend five times that amount.”

He says any money they’re granted would be used right away to clear wildfire triggers from the forest floor and surrounding areas.

“The type of work that needs to be done to prevent wildfires and to actually make a difference to this very large threat is very expensive. It’s thousands and thousands of dollars per hectare and there [are] lots of hectares to be done, not only in my community, but in communities around the province,” Brolund stressed.

“We have examples of the fire that burned quickly through spots that hadn’t had this work done, but areas where it slowed down and came down to the ground and suppressing the fire in that area was much more achievable because the mitigation work had been completed.”

CityNews asked Brolund a number of times if he thought the province was taking climate change seriously enough, however, he did not give a direct answer.

In recent budgets, the province has put aside money to fight wildfires and other climate emergencies like floods and extreme heat. In 2023, the province committed to capital funding to help the B.C. Wildfire Service.

“Through a provincial-federal cost-share arrangement, the B.C. Wildfire Service will receive $64 million in capital funding over five years (2022/23 to 2026/27) for firefighting equipment. The funding builds on $359 million provided through budget 2022 to protect British Columbians from wildfire, including through year-round staffing at the B.C. Wildfire Service and expanded wildfire prevention.”

Listen live to CityNews 1130 to keep up to date with CityNews’ 2024 Budget coverage. You can also subscribe to breaking news alerts sent directly to your inbox.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today