2018 now worst year on record for wildfires in B.C.

Published: September 4, 2018

Photo by BC Wildfire Service

With fire activity in British Columbia still high and often unpredictable, this year has officially become the worst year for forest fires the province has ever seen.

Since the beginning of the fire season 1,250,383 hectares have burned, compared to 1,216,053 hectares from last year, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.

Graph courtesy of Mike Flannigan.

This news comes with the extension of the state of emergency for B.C., which will now last until Sept. 12 at the earliest.

This record setting year is a sign of the kind of weather and fire activity we will have to get used to going forward, according to researcher and professor of wildland fires at the University of Alberta, Mike Flannigan.

“I expect more fire activity across Canada,” Flannigan says. “Not every year will be as bad as these past two years. There is variability in weather each year, but overall there is expected to be more.”

Hot, dry and windy weather conditions, which we are seeing more of, are a strong catalyst to creating large out of control fires. These weather conditions are conducive to decreasing the moisture in the fuel the fires burn, such as living and dead trees, shrubs, fallen leaves and brush, etc.

According to Flannigan, because of extreme weather, 3 per cent of fires started amount to 97 per cent of land burned.

“In Canada, 2.5 million hectares are burned on average every year. This is about half the size of Nova Scotia. These numbers have doubled since the 70s,” Flannigan says.

Learning to live with fires like these is grim news, but it’s certainly something we can prepare for.

“There is a larger impact from these fires each year because we have developed a lot more land closer to forests. Cottages, homes, businesses, industry are all building up in these areas,” Flannigan says. “We can increase the amount of fire education we have. All of the human caused fires are preventable. We can better store fuel around our homes, use sprinkler systems for fire protection and have independent power sources prepared.”

To increase awareness and how to prepare yourself for future fires, check out FireSmart Canada.

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