British Columbia

Number of wildfires, hectares burned in B.C. so far 'significantly' down over 10-year average

As of June 19 2020, there had been 168 wildfires recorded in B.C. Over the past 10 years, an average of 287 wildfires were ignited by mid-June.

Cool weather, open fire prohibitions to thank for slow start to fire season

A wildfire near Kitimat is one of 181 wildfires that have started this year, which is down significantly compared to the 10 year average. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

The number of fires and hectares burned so far in 2020 is significantly lower than the 10 year average, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service. 

There have been 181 wildfires ignited in B.C. as of June 29.

As of June 19, there had been 168 wildfires recorded provincewide. Over the past 10 years, an average of 287 wildfires had started by that same date. 

Fire information officer Cathy L'Orsa said this is largely due to cool, damp weather in May and June and open fire prohibitions put in place in April. 

"We've been experiencing a weather pattern that really aids wildfire prevention," she told Daybreak North guest host Wil Fundal. 

There are currently three active wildfires burning in the province, one each in the Kamloops, Northwest and Prince George fire centres. 

The B.C. Wildfire Service's most recent seasonal outlook, published on June 19 said the season began with drier-than-normal conditions in April.  As snow melts, light surface fuels dry quickly, which means that despite cooler conditions, heavy rain or melted snow, fires in pine needles and grasses can travel quickly when paired with strong, dry winds. 

If rainfall is received periodically throughout the spring, as has happened this year, larger fuels are much less likely to ignite than if there is a large amount of rain all at once. 

Fire danger ratings for B.C. on June 29, 2020. (BC Wildfire Service)

"It's more the frequency of the showers that have really positively impacted our fire season thus far," L'Orsa said. 

"The timing of the precipitation is really important to maintain the moisture in our surface and our deeper fuels."

The B.C. Wildfire Service continues to monitor variables that contribute to wildfires starting and their behaviour, including frequency of rain, local weather patterns, length of drying periods and wind. 

The forecast for the next 10 days is promising, according to L'Orsa, but that doesn't mean British Columbians can be complacent. 

"It is important to remember that fire hazard and fire behaviour are really driven by short-term weather and that a few weeks or even days with hot, dry conditions can drastically change a fire's ability to start and to grow," she said.

With that in mind, the B.C. Wildfire Service is reminding people there is still a potential for wildfires as grasslands and other fire fuels dry out. They are advising anyone spending time outdoors to use caution when it comes to activities that could ignite a wildfire, such as campfires.

With files from Daybreak North


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