One of nine helicopters working to contain the Cheslaslie River fire west of Quesnel

Forest fire help tops communities’ wish list

B.C. government fund for community forest fire prevention is all spent, and fires still threaten some parts of province

Coming through one of the most expensive forest fire seasons in the province’s history, the B.C. government is being asked to renew its fund for local governments to create safe zones around their communities.

A resolution to extend wildfire prevention funding tops the list for the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, set for Sept. 22-26 in Whistler. It was sponsored by the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District, where fire crews are battling the latest major forest fire near Princeton.

The province’s wildfire prevention fund was established 10 years ago in the wake of the damaging 2003 fire season, with $37 million for a cost-sharing program. Another $25 million was provided in 2011 and that money has all been committed for local forest fuel management projects.

The B.C. government estimates it will spend $350 million on wildfire control by the end of this season. That was exceeded in 2003 and in 2009, the most costly season for the province with $382 million spent.

Other resolutions given priority by the UBCM executive:

• Langley City is calling on the province to provide a cost recovery model for medical assistance calls to its fire rescue service. Nearly four out of five calls received are for medical assistance. In response to a previous request, the province told UBCM its local firefighters are not required to respond to medical calls.

• The City of Victoria wants to discuss the province’s changes to the Agricultural Land Commission. Nelson, Coldstream and the Central Kootenay Regional District have presented similar resolutions, calling for more consultation before changes are implemented.

• Northern and central B.C. municipalities object to the province’s proposal to cap industrial tax rates for properties used in liquefied natural gas developments. The B.C. government has complained previously about high industrial taxes imposed on the forest products industry.

• The province’s new recycling regulations have prompted a resolution on behalf of small communities without recycling programs. The Fraser-Fort George Regional District is calling for recycling collection services to be offered wherever fees are being collected from retailers for packaging and printed paper products.