Although the 2016 wildfire season was off to a busy start, this season has been considerably less severe than last year’s.
In the Northwest Fire Centre, by July 19, 56 fires had burned 1184 hectares. This is significantly less than last season, when 65 fires had burned 30,069 hectares by the same date.
According to Haley Williams, Fire Information Officer for the Northwest Fire Centre, the wet spring and early summer allowed for the vegetation to stay green for longer into the season.
“Without a prolonged drying trend, we are less likely to see very large fires,” said Williams. “So depending on the weather in the next few weeks, we’re probably looking at an average fire season.”
Although this season hasn’t been as severe as last year’s in the Northwest Fire Centre, the number of wildfires so far in 2016 is above the 10-year average of 43 (by July 19).
Looking at wildfires province wide, this season hasn’t been nearly as busy as last year’s.
“April and May were extraordinarily busy for us, but since the May long weekend things have quieted off quite a bit,” said Kevin Skrepnek, Chief Information Officer for the B.C. Wildfire Service. “June is typically a fairly wet month, but we’ve certainly seen that linger into July more so than usual.”
Up until July 25, B.C. had seen 586 wildfires with 93,000 total hectares burned; for the same period in 2015, there were 1342 fires that burned a total of 297,000 hectares.
Although this wildfire season hasn’t been as severe, Skrepnek said conditions could change fairly quickly.
“August is typically the core period,” he said. “We’ve had seasons that had been fairly quiet up until this point, and this is when they start to get going.”
“There’s still a very real possibility that we’re in a more severe situation like what we had last year,” he continued. “With wildfires we have to look at it on a short-term basis because the conditions can change so quickly.”
“We don’t want people to get complacent because we’ve had a slow five to six weeks,” he added.
Looking at the 10-year average, B.C. is below average this year when it comes to the number of fires. While the 10-year average has been 860 wildfires (up until July 25), B.C. has had 586.
However, when it comes to hectares burned, B.C. is above the 10-year average of 72,000 hectares. Of the 93,000 hectares burned so far this year, a staggering 91,000 hectares were burned in the Prince George Fire Centre alone.
In 2015, B.C. endured a major wildfire season that saw aggressive fire activity, an above-average number of wildfires and hectares burned, and significant impacts on people and communities throughout the province.
Record-breaking hot and dry conditions in to June and July brought “high” to “extreme” fire danger ratings in many areas of the province. Given the sustained level of activity across B.C., additional personnel and resources were imported from other Canadian jurisdictions as well as Australia, South Africa and the United States.