Firefighting costs drop this year

But there have been more fires in northwestern B.C. than last year.

FOREST firefighting costs have dropped compared to last year even though there have been twice as many blazes as 2011.

So far this year the province has spent $2.9 million fighting fires in the northwest, substantially less than the $4.3 million spent in 2011.

And a large chunk of last year’s total, $3.1 million, was spent fighting just one fire, the 11,000-hectare Tsigar Lake fire in the northern section of the region.

That fire required a lot of aircraft and helicopter time and personnel to bring under control.

There were 18 northwest fires last year, a low number because of the cool and wet summer which blanketed the entire province.

Of that number, 12 were caused by lightning, five by humans and one of unknown origin.

The potential for fires this year has been higher, resulting in 93 starts so far in the northwest, 65 lightning-caused and 28 human-caused.

Although 93 starts is much higher than the year previous it is still considered a slow fire season.

Provincially, 2011 was the slowest fire season in more than 70 years. At this time last year, $74 million was spent on fire fighting and so far this year the cost has been approximately $112 million.

That latter figure may change once the province receives payment for work done in other provinces by BC firefighters.

What has been unusually high this year is the number of abandoned campfires, says Lindsay Carnes from the forest ministry’s Northwest Fire Centre in Smithers.

Despite warnings released from the fire centre, there have been 54 abandoned campfires in the northwest district, two of which spread into surrounding bush and became classified as wildfires.

Carnes said a high number of abandoned campfires can be a factor in deciding to ban campfires or not.

We considered it this year, except it it didn’t make sense to put a campfire ban in place… because we were expecting cooler wetter conditions,” she said.