A significant number of evacuation alerts and orders were issued during the wildfire season that just ended — and costs incurred by the TNRD’s emergency operations centre and charged to the province will be twice as much as they were in 2017.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s emergency management and protective services committee received a wildfire season debrief on Thursday morning (Oct. 21), at which time statistics were provided.
Regional politicians heard that, in 2021, the TNRD emergency operations centre issued 293 evacuation alerts and orders, including 39 over a two-day period, on Aug. 14 and Aug. 15, compared to 45 alerts and orders issued during the fires of 2017.
“It was a staggering amount,” TNRD emergency program co-ordinator Kevin Skrepnek said.
Skrepnek explained this year’s emergency included numerous fires of major consequence burning simultaneously, compared to 2017, at which time the Elephant Hill fire was the main large blaze of concern, along with some fires in the North Thompson.
The TNRD’s EOC costs are estimated to be $5.3 million in 2021. It compares to $2.6 million in 2017.
In 2017, the TNRD billed the provincial government $582,000 for overtime costs, including $117,000 in overtime claimed by then-TNRD CAO Sukh Gill, whose annual salary that year was $206,000.
At the time, areas of the TNRD were under pressure from flooding and wildfires. Gill said there were more than 100 days in which he worked 14 or 15 hours each day.
As in 2017, the majority of the money expensed this past summer is expected to be reimbursed by the province through Emergency Management BC.
Skrepnek said the regional district is responsible for providing security and access control for fire areas and hired private security and traffic controllers, due to geographical and resourcing challenges amidst fires burning over a broad geographical area.
“Those costs add up,” he said.
Fifty-five emergency operations staff worked more than 9,600 hours.
At least 164 structures were lost in the regional district, excluding those that burned in the Village of Lytton and structures lost on First Nations land.
Skrepnek expects the numbers will continue to be updated.
“We are still becoming aware of additional structures that were destroyed,” he said.
Of the known number, a total of 53 were primary dwellings, 29 were seasonal dwellings, seven were commercial/industrial buildings, 67 were accessory buildings and eight were unknown. The White Rock Lake fire southeast of Kamloops was the most destructive (68 structures lost), followed by the Sparks Lake fire southwest of the city (55 structures lost). The White Rock Lake destroyed the most primary dwellings, 32.