With 959 total fires so far this season covering 263,000 hectares, this early fire season is shaping up as one of the worst in the province.
As of noon July 11, there were 240 active wildfires across the province, with six states of local emergency, and 12 evacuation alerts and orders in effect. Over 75 properties in the province were on evacuation order with approximately 545 homes on evacuation alert.
On July 10 alone, there were 67 new wildfires in B.C. Furthermore, Kurtis Isfeld with the B.C. Wildlife Service said he is expecting about 30 new fire starts a day for the foreseeable future.
Needless to say that fire crews stationed in Burns Lake and Houston – the Nadina Fire Zone – have had a busy year to date. There are currently nine active fires in the Northwest Fire Centre, and one of these active fires is in the Nadina Fire Zone.
The Whitesail Lake fire has burned around 437 hectares within Tweedsmuir North Provincial Park, in the Quanchus Mountains area. Pojar said B.C. Parks has restricted access to the Quanchus Mountains area, which is remote and mainly accessible by boat or air. The Eutsuk Lake area of the park remains open to visitors, as well as the Chikamin Bay rail portage facility.
Pojar said the Whitesail Lake fire is not contained and is currently being monitored by B.C. Wildfire Service personnel. She added that this fire was sparked by lightning and that it is burning in a remote area where fire has traditionally been a natural component of the landscape.
“Fire regulates insect populations, returns nutrients to the soil, maintains a diversity of animal and plant life, and removes combustible materials from the forest floor, reducing the frequency and severity of future fires,” she said.
The current fire danger rating for the majority of the Northwest Fire Centre is “moderate” to “high.” Although Burns Lake has seen some precipitation over the weekend, it takes a significant amount of sustained precipitation to reduce fire danger ratings, explained Pojar.
Since April 1, 2015, B.C. has had 1025 fires, more than double the 453 wildfires reported in the same time period in 2014. It is estimate that the B.C. government has spent more than $80 million so far this year battling forest fires.
The 2009 fire season is the most expensive on record, with $382 million spent, compared to $375 million in 2003. Those years also saw prolonged drought, but it set in later in the summer.
Finance minister Mike de Jong said the unusual early dry spell has provincial costs running ahead of 2003.
Help is coming from across the world to help the province deal with the growing wildfire threat.
Ontario sent 70 firefighters and specialists to Abbotsford and Cranbrook for deployment in the coastal and southeast fire centres, with two skimming aircraft, a “birddog” plane and an air attack officer arriving at the Kamloops fire centre.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson said he expects further help to arrive from Australia and New Zealand. Thomson added that lightning-caused fires obviously cannot be controlled, but human-caused fires can.
“We need everyone to do their part and refrain from activity that may cause wildfires.”
Bans on all open burning continuous province-wide. Since July 3, 2015, all open burning – including campfires and fireworks – have been prohibited throughout the majority of the province. This ban applies to:
– Open fires of any size, including campfires;
– The use of fireworks, sky lanterns and tiki torches;
– Burning barrels or burning cages of any size or description;
– The use of binary exploding targets (e.g., for rifle target practice);
– The use of air curtain burners (forced-air burning systems).
Failure to abide by the Wildfire Act, including open burning restrictions, can result in a $345 fine, an administrative penalty of $10,000 or, if convicted in court, a fine of up to $100,000 and/or one year in jail.
For the latest information on wildfire activity, conditions and prohibitions, visit ww.bcwildfire.ca
~ With files from Tom Fletcher