British Columbia

B.C. fires: which ones do they fight first?

With roughly 190 wildfires burning across B.C., the province's Wildfire Management Branch has to prioritize which fires will get fought first.

Blazes are examined on a case-by-case basis, says the Wildfire Management Branch

A firefighter attacks a flare up while overhead one of three helicopters make water bucket drops. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

With roughly 190 wildfires burning across B.C., the province's Wildfire Management Branch has to prioritize which fires will get fought first.

According to spokesperson Kevin Skrepnek, there is no strict protocol in place to determine which fires get prioritized. Instead, each fire is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, based on the following criteria:

  • Top priority is always human life and safety.
  • Second priority is property, such as houses and buildings.
  • Third priority is high environmental values, such as community watersheds and habitats of species at risk.
  • Fourth priority is resource values, such as timber harvesting and resource extraction sites.

"Fire is a natural component of many ecosystems and when there is no immediate danger, we may allow the fire to burn so the benefits of fire in these ecosystems can be realized," said Skrepnek.

B.C. employs more than 1,100 specially-trained type 1 firefighters. Their ranks are supported by up to 800 type 2 firefighters on contract crews, who are called to assist with fires of lower risk, and type 3 emergency firefighters, who are called in for mop-up operations and patrols when resources are running short.

In addition, out-of-province crews are borrowed from other jurisdictions as needed, such as the 360 requested from Ontario, Australia and New Zealand this week.

With files from Mike Laanela

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