Ash covers the ground in an area burned by the Shovel Lake wildfire, near Fort Fraser, B.C., on Thursday, August 23, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Ash covers the ground in an area burned by the Shovel Lake wildfire, near Fort Fraser, B.C., on Thursday, August 23, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

B.C. First Nations are owed massive debts after fighting to save homes from wildfires

First Nations affected by Elephant Hill, Shovel Lake fires still not reimbursed thousands of dollars

Many B.C. First Nations that stayed behind to stop wildfires from destroying their communities in 2017 and 2018 are still waiting to be reimbursed by the provincial and federal governments for hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses.

Indigenous groups say they can’t afford to pay for training and equipment for firefighters before a crisis strikes, so they have to take on enormous debts to protect their homes as flames approach.

The Nadleh Whut’en in central B.C. are set to meet with provincial government officials Wednesday to deliver a report about their struggle to stop the massive Shovel Lake wildfire this summer.

Chief Larry Nooski says they spent $400,000 on firefighting equipment, salaries for fire crews, an emergency operations centre and security, but they have not been repaid by the various agencies responsible.

READ MORE: RCMP work to ‘neutralize’ explosives on property near Shovel Lake wildfire

The Bonaparte Indian Band spent $600,000 to fight the Elephant Hill wildfire on their territory in 2017 and have not been reimbursed about $150,000, in part because their firefighters weren’t properly certified.

Chief Ryan Day says ideally, his First Nation would have a fully certified fire crew, but it lacks the resources and carrying debt has a significant impact on essential services for his people.

The Canadian Press

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