Fire wall

Last year, the provincial government announced it would be accelerating the completion of wildfire protection plans in communities across British Columbia. This, after a Public Eye investigation revealed more than 100 local governments hadn't prepared one. But, today, the ministry of forests and range confirmed there's now a cap on the amount of funding for communities wanting to act on what is usually the costliest part of those plans - fuel treatment.

The provincial government presently funds 75 percent of the cost of such projects - which involve clearing and thinning wooded areas - via a fund administered by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

But a ministry spokesperson confirmed "the provincial fuels management working group is limiting the amount of operational treatment funding allocated to any single local government to a maximum of $500,000 per year to ensure that funding is available to all communities that apply."

"The working group believes $500,000 should be entirely adequate for one project over the course of one year and local governments can reapply for additional treatment funding in subsequent years," the spokesperson continued.

During estimates debate in October, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell couldn't say what the cost would be to implement the fuel treatment projects which have already been identified - leaving aside those communities without protection plans.

But he acknowledged the price "far outstrips the $14.5 million that remains" in the Union of British Columbia Municipalities fund.

A strategic threat analysis prepared for the government in 2004 identified 1.7 million hectares of forest land that may pose fire threat to communities.

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