As we turn the corner on the winding road near the town of Ashcroft, the beautiful blue sky is suddenly clouded by smoke. Giant plumes tower above the mountains, topped by a huge mushroom cloud that resembles an atomic bomb.
Disasters like this could double, even triple by the end of the century.
The fire season is only a few weeks old, but already, B.C. is burning.
I have come to the southern interior with wildfire expert Mike Flannigan and a film crew for Into the Fire, a documentary airing on The Nature of Things this fall.
The temperature is in the mid-30s. A strong wind keeps us cool, but that wind is fanning the flames of disaster. Multiple blazes threaten to turn homes and ranches into ash. Whole communities have had to flee on short notice. Fire crews work valiantly around the clock, trying to control what Mother Nature sometimes deems uncontrollable.
Wildfires in BC is not surprising, say expert
It’s a dramatic, and for many, a traumatic, turn of events. But to Mike, a University of Alberta researcher and former meteorologist, it’s not surprising. As one of the first scientists to raise the alarm on climate change’s impact on forest fires, he says disasters like this could double, even triple by the end of the century.
“Hot, dry, windy weather can lead to an inferno,” he points out. “All you need is fuel and ignition.”
There’s no shortage of fuel around here – majestic conifer trees, brush and needles, along with valleys full of tinder-dry grass. As for ignition, 60% of B.C. forest fires are sparked by lightning. The warmer it gets, the more lightning will strike. In fact, the energy released in an intense wildfire can even create its own thunderstorms.
As we talk, the mushroom cloud on the horizon continues to grow. “That fire could double in size by tomorrow,” he predicts, correctly. Although Mike has seen more wildfires than he can count, even he is awed by this one. Imagine facing an inferno more than 1,000 times bigger than Stanley Park. That’s what firefighters are dealing with, just in this one location.
To find out more, join us as we head Into the Fire this coming season on The Nature of Things.