B.C. Wildfires Taking An Economic Toll


CBJ — The wildfires ripping through British Columbia’s Interior are beginning to exact an economic toll, forcing companies in the forestry and mining sectors to scale back or suspend operations altogether. At last count more than 14,000 people had been displaced from their homes due to the danger of the spreading fire.

About 30 to 40 logging companies spanning from Merritt, B.C., to several hundred kilometres north in Williams Lake have also shut down harvesting operations

West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. closed its 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Chasm, B.C., locations as of the afternoon of Sunday, July 9, according to a statement. The company’s mills near active fires “have staff and resources that are being deployed to protect our facilities and the community.” Norbord Inc. says it has shut down its wood panel mill, also in 100 Mile House, and it’s assessing what impact the fires will have on its production schedule. The company says all of the mill’s employees safely left the area, with no reported injuries, and the site was secure at the time of the evacuation.

Tolko Industries Ltd. said on its Facebook page that its two Williams Lake locations, the Lakeview and Soda Creek mills, would not open for the time being and managers would meet daily to determine whether to open going forward.

Meanwhile, in the mining industry, Imperial Metals Corp.  said it significantly reduced operations at the Mount Polley open pit copper and gold mine in the Williams Lake area. Imperial Metals says many of the roads used to access the site have been closed and if critical supplies such as fuel are no longer available, the mine may suspend operations altogether.

In 2003, wildfires in the province cost the B.C. economy $1.3 billion in direct fire suppression costs and indirect economic losses, according to a paper by the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.