B.C.’s northern construction industry is feeling the heat of the wildfires as evacuations are causing worksites to shut down.
Scott Bone, CEO of the Northern Regional Construction Association, said general contractors, subcontractors and manufacturers have been hit hard as projects have been halted as residents flee from the flames.
"From a regional perspective, a lot of our members did have contracts in the areas of the wildfires," said Bone. "So delays have impacted the people hired to do the work."
And while in areas like Williams Lake, where evacuation orders have been lifted and contracts are still in play, Bone said it is still impacting the construction cycle.
Other contractors are also feeling the effects of the ongoing wildfire situation in the province.
Daniel Hutchins, operations manager with road and bridge maintenance contractor Interior Roads Ltd., which provides services for the South and Central Cariboo areas of B.C., said their summer construction program has been extensively impacted.
"Normally we do our summer construction program in June, July, August. This year we haven't been able to really do any work and that's going to put us pretty far behind. Coming into September we're usually 60, 70, 80 per cent done our yearly work and now this year we're sitting at 29 per cent in one area and five to 10 per cent in our other area," he explained.
"We also have, in our two contracts, about $14 million worth of construction work that we have to do. That's the stuff we're falling behind on with the road closures and the restrictions placed on us," said Hutchins.
"We'll have to work right into the fall. Our year goes summer to summer. We'll be struggling next spring to catch up."
Hutchins added the company has been responsible for providing traffic management services in the South Cariboo Region, an area heavily impacted by fire, in conjunction with the RCMP and Canadian Forces.
Crews have been manning check points, blocking off roads and piloting vehicles through areas that are safe for passage.
"It's starting to get a little more routine, but certainly in the beginning, when 100 Mile, when Williams Lake was evacuated, it was a very tense situation. There was a lot of emotion," he described. "It affected some people pretty drastically. We had to help people in more ways than one get through the situation."
The B.C. construction industry is also doing its part to help the situation. So far, the Vancouver Regional Construction Association's #Here4BC campaign has raised more than $125,000 for the Red Cross British Columbia Fires Appeal. The campaign is aiming to raise $1 million for wildfire relief by Aug. 31.
Emergency officials state the fires have destroyed around 71 homes, 116 outbuildings and three commercial buildings. According to provincial statistics, there are 3,906 firefighters and other personnel currently fighting the fires. Some have been brought in from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the U.S. to help relieve local crews.
Ryan Turcot, an information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, said as of Aug. 14 there were 164 wildfires actively burning and since April 1, which marks the beginning of wildfire season, there have been a total of 1,013 wildfires.
Those fires have burned a total area of 693,000 hectares, which is bigger than the province of Prince Edward Island.
Various media reports have also stated the fires are taking a toll on forestry, milling and mining operations, with several facilities shutting down and the cost of softwood lumber escalating.
As of press deadline, the Lower Mainland was breathing much easier as favourable winds and rain had dropped temperatures and pushed out wildfire smoke that had been blanketing the region. However, things have not improved in the Cariboo Region as new evacuation orders have been issued, impacting more than 500 people.
In total, there are approximately 6,402 current evacuees due to wildfires, statistics show.