CRANBROOK B.C. — After widespread evacuations, last summer Cranbrook, B.C is looking at how to fireproof the community. The city has hired fire ecologist Bob Gray to look at the different options and evaluate the cost of creating a buffer zone.

In a report by the CBC, Gray argues that it’s a case of paying now or paying later.

“There is an opportunity cost and then there is [the cost] associated with not treating it,” Gray told Chris Walker, the host of CBC’s Daybreak South.

The main area Gray is looking to is 33,000 hectares of Crown land about 25 kilometres to the southwest and 15 kilometres to the south, where, he says, the main fire risk is likely to come from.

Logging that area would bring in some revenue but still lead to about a $28 million net loss — even with $80 million to $90 million from selling the material.

Last summer, more than 45,000 British Columbians were displaced because of wildfires. Hundreds of properties near Cranbook received evacuation alerts and Cranbook, itself, was nearly evacuated.

An upfront prevention investment is far better than catastrophic economic losses afterwards, Gray said.

His study looked at the cost of evacuating the area if wildfires got out of hand.

“In a three-day evacuation, we found it was about $51 million,” he said.

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