Fire season yet to heat up in B.C.


As June comes to a close

As June comes to a close

Kamloops This Week

It’s easy to forget about wildfires with myriad flood warnings and a wet spring fresh in mind. But, in B.C., it doesn’t take long for the fire season to heat up.

As June comes to a close, the province has dealt with just 163 fires, compared to 302 through the same period of time last year. Despite a slow start, officials at the province’s wildfire co-ordination centre in Kamloops are still reminding the public to be careful in the outdoors.

“All we need is a couple weeks of hot and dry temperatures and things will definitely turn around quickly,” said Fionna Tollovsen, a provincial fire-information officer.

There are no campfire bans in the province, but that could change if the fire-danger rating moves into the red range. However, Tollovsen noted, fires this year have scorched an equal amount of B.C. earth this year as in 2010, in part due to a large wildfire in northern B.C. earlier this year.

Though it might be quiet now, those who lived through the wildfire season in 2003 will likely remember there was very little activity until August, when fires devoured Barriere, the outskirts of Kamloops and some of Kelowna.

The slow start to the season doesn’t mean fire crews have been sitting around, idling away.

In May, the province’s wildfire management branch sent crews to help battle out-of-control blazes in and near Slave Lake, Alta., the town of 7,000 that lost as much as one-third of its buildings to fires.

A total of six 20-person crews fought fires in Alberta, including a unit from the Kamloops Fire Centre.

The wet spring and generally slow start to the fire season in B.C. made it possible for crews to leave the province.

Tollovsen noted the province still has a few crews left in Alberta, but most are back in B.C., getting ready for the fire season.

The typical season runs from April 1 to October 1. Last year proved to be a difficult fire season.

There were 1,606 fires in the province, a sharp decline from the 2009 fire season, which saw slightly more than 3,000 fires burn the landscape. The seasonal average is 1,800. However, fewer fires didn’t mean crews weren’t busy.

More than 334,000 hectares were burned in 2010, compared to 225,000 hectares in 2009.

Much of the damage was concentrated in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region.

The province spent $209 million fighting fires in 2010, nearly half of the $403 million it spent in 2009.