B.C. government offers help to small businesses as wildfires set record this year for hectares burned

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      Hundreds of wildfires in B.C. this summer have not only wreaked havoc on evacuees, they're also putting some businesses in jeopardy.

      In response to this, Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Minister Doug Donaldson has annnounced that a $1,500 emergency grant will be made available to small organizations in areas under evacuation orders or evacuation alerts.

      The grants will be administered through the Red Cross.

      To qualify, applicants must have 50 or fewer employees, been in operation prior to July 7, have a net income of $250,000 or less per year, and have resumed or are intending to resume operations as soon as possible.

      In addition to being available to small businesses, these grants will be made to nonprofits, as well as to First Nations whose livelihood is based on cultural practices.

      “This is an unprecedented wildfire season that has been very challenging for all those involved, including small businesses in the impacted areas,” Donaldson said in a government news release. “Coming from a rural area and as minister responsible for rural development, I know the important role small businesses play in rural communities.”

      The news came as B.C. surpassed the all-time record for land burned by wildfires in a single year.

      According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, about 9,063 square kilometres have been affected. That exceeds the 8,550 square kilometres that burned in 1958 when firefighting techniques were not nearly as advanced as they are today.

      This year's B.C. wildfires have scorched the equivalent of eight areas the size of the city of Vancouver.

      As of August 16, there werre 1,030 wildfires this year covering 906,348 hectares. Within that total, 682,389 hectares have been in the Cariboo Fire Centre and another 176,450 hectares have been in the Kamloops Fire Centre.