British Columbia

More B.C. firefighters active outside than inside province

Compared to the last two years, B.C. is seeing an extremely slow start to the forest fire fighting season this year.

34 fires burning in province, less than a third of the fires burning at this time in 2018

The B.C. Wildfire Service says the province's fire fighting season is off to a slow start, thanks mainly to a wetter than usual June and July. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Compared to the last two years, B.C. is seeing an extremely slow start to the forest fire fighting season this year.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says there are around 34 fires burning in B.C., less than a third of the fires that were active at this time in 2018. Fire has consumed about 12,000 hectares, a fraction of the 56,000 hectares burned this time last year.

"Our fires have not been of consequence recently," said fire information officer Erika Berg.  "We saw some evacuation orders and alerts earlier in the spring but at this point in time we've been able to keep those fires down to small sizes."

Berg says there are over 300 active B.C. firefighters in Alberta, Ontario, the Yukon and Alaska, more than are actively fighting fires here in BC. 

The B.C. Wildfire Service says that is saving the province money on firefighting costs.

"At this time, we are around $70 million and that is approximately a 26 per cent decrease in comparison to last year," said Berg. 

The calm start follows 2 record breaking years  

B.C. experienced two record-breaking wildfire seasons in a row in 2017 and 2018 in terms of cost and hectares burned.

This spring was a busy time for the B.C. Wildfire Service but rains in June, then more in July dampened fire activity. There are no fires of note in the southern half of the province and no home or communities on alert.

"It's just been much quieter, almost a return to normal in some ways," said Paul Lane, vice president of Airspay Airtankers.

B.C. firefighters leave for the Yukon as B.C. experiences an unusually slow start to the forest firefighting season. (Submitted by B.C. Wildfire Service)

Lane says his company has three tankers and three spotter aircraft now based in B.C. but they are often waiting to be sent out.

"They are forward deployed to the zone," said Lane. "But it's spotty. You might get a little bit of activity but nothing like last year."

However, both Berg and Lane say the situation could turn around very quickly. 

Often, B.C.'s fire season doesn't truly heat up until the end of July and there are clear skies and warm temperatures forecast for much of the Interior

"We are constantly assessing conditions and looking ahead," said Berg.  "A heat wave is going to be coming through and we are already experiencing an increase in temperature and drying trends."  

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