British Columbia

Wildfire service sets up special camp in northwestern B.C. as fire risk soars

Wildfire crews are setting up a 150-person camp in the Dease Lake area in British Columbia's northwest as drought grips the region and the fire danger soars along with the temperature.

Parched conditions prompt decision to establish 150-person camp in Dease Lake area

Wildfire bootcamp recruits in training outside Merritt, B.C., in early May. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Wildfire crews are arriving in northwestern British Columbia as drought grips the region and the fire danger soars along with the temperature.

The B.C. Wildfire Service is setting up a 150-person camp in the Dease Lake area, not in response to any specific blaze, but because the service expects potential new wildfire activity with the parched conditions.

A statement from the service says the camp will house firefighters ready to respond to any incident, while a team that specializes in overseeing wildfire management has also been sent to Dease Lake.

The fire danger rating is listed as high to extreme across most of the Northwest and Prince George fire centres, which encompass the northern half of B.C., while large sections of the Coastal Fire Centre — which includes all of the South Coast and Vancouver Island — are also rated at a high risk for a blaze.

Wildfire service maps show the most drought-stricken area is in the extreme northwestern corner of the province, covered by the Cassiar fire zone, where a campfire ban and other open burning bans are already in effect.

Wildfire bootcamp recruits in training outside Merritt, B.C., in early May. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

'Holdover' fires expected

Three new wildfires were sparked in that zone this week and crews also continue to work on two blazes that burned intensely last year and smouldered underground through the winter before resurfacing as hot spots in the spring.

"The Northwest Fire Centre anticipates more holdover fires associated with the 2018 Alkali Lake fire," says the wildfire service statement, referring to the blaze that charred more than 1,200 square kilometres of bush and destroyed more than 20 homes in Telegraph Creek.

"Firefighters will work out of the Dease Lake fire camp on a rotational basis throughout the summer. This will allow for quicker response times to new fire starts," the statement says.

An extreme fire rating is applied to conditions where the wildfire service says fires will "start easily, spread rapidly, and challenge fire suppression efforts."

The service's website says 235 blazes have been recorded since the fire season began on April 1, and of the 42 fires currently burning, nearly 65 per cent were caused by humans. 

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