British Columbia

B.C. wildfires could set 30-year record for area burned

85 more firefighters are on the way to B.C. to join more than 1,200 already here.

85 more firefighters are on way to B.C. to join more than 1,200 already here

Fire crews make their way to the Chelaslie River fire in B.C.'s northwest, the largest fire burning in B.C. this season at 129,000 hectares (Twiter)

B.C. is on track to have the worst wildfire season in 30 years this summer if the forecasts for a warm, dry fall are correct, say officials with B.C.'s Wildfire Management Branch.

"If we get a little more fire activity through September, which the long range forecast is calling for, we'll likely surpass that record," says provincial fire information officer Dustin Eno.

Since the season began in April, more than 330,000 hectares have been burned. The worst season recorded in the last 30 years was in 2010 when 337,149 hectares were burned.

But both seasons fall well short of the worst season since record-keeping began, which was set in 1958 when more that 855,000 hectares of land was burned up in wildfires across B.C.

Environment Canada is forecasting overall warmer than normal temperatures in the months of August, September and October for British Columbia.

About 1,200 personnel — some from as far as Australia and Alaska — are already deployed to fight the fires, with another 85 arriving from Ontario to give crews a break.

Of the 1,311 total wildfires to date, the majority have been in B.C.'s central Interior and Northwestern regions.

The largest of them is the Chelaslie River fire at more than 129,000 hectares. It is only 20 per cent contained since it was sparked by lightning in early July.

Active lightning strikes are largely responsible for the active fire season this year. About 60 per cent of this year's fires have been sparked by lightning, with the remainder caused by humans. On average, the ratio is split evenly most years.

While the fires have only triggered a few evacuations this summer, numerous air quality advisories have been issued and rescinded in Prince George and surrounding areas over the summer due to smoke from the fires.

The Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley also experienced hazy conditions when a weather system pushed smoke from the central Interior down the Pemberton Valley.

Campfire bans lifted

Despite the highly active wildfire season, campfire bans were lifted this week for coastal areas from Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii to the Lower Mainland, and in the northwest.

Eno says that while much of the province is still warm and dry, cooler temperatures overnight have contributed to an increase in humidity.

Environment Canada is forecasting overall warmer than normal temperatures in the months of August, September and October for British Columbia. Confidence levels range from 100 per cent for the south and central coast to 40 per cent in the northern part of the province. (Environment Canada)

"A lot of people may have seen dew on cars and that makes a difference in creating some moisture in the fine fuel in the forest," said Eno.

"Because we have those recovery periods overnight, any fires we do see aren't as likely to spread as quickly as we saw earlier in the [fire] season."

A wave of cool, wet weather is forecast to wash across the province over the long weekend starting with the north coast.

Even with the ban removed, campfires must meet certain safety restrictions.

"That means less than half a metre by half a metre, said Eno.

"They need to be safe. That means that any fuels near the fire should be removed. The fire has to be supervised at all times — even stepping away for a minute is prohibited."

He also reminded campers fires should be lit in calm wind conditions and after putting it out, campers should check the ashes are cool enough to touch.


  • A previous version of this story said the all-time record for wildfires in B.C. was set in 2010. In fact that was the 30-year record. The all-time record was set in 1958.
    Aug 29, 2014 9:38 AM PT


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