It’s official: wildfire season worst so far for BC

With the smoke, ever-present relief fund requests and cancelled visits the community has endured this summer, it’s not hard to believe 2017 is the province’s worst year for wildfire.

The province’s wildfire service confirmed that sad milestone yesterday — at least by one standard.

“If you were to measure it in terms of area burned, the estimate we’ve got right now is 894,491 hectares,” said Wildfire Service information officer Kevin Skrepnek yesterday.

That tops the 855,00 hectares burned in the province in 1958 — almost 60 years ago.

And, Mr. Skrepnek grimly reminded, the season isn’t over yet.

“We’re only halfway through August. In all likelihood, that number is going to keep climbing,” he said.

Much like the 1958 wildfire season, 2017 can be characterized as a rash of wildfires. This year, more than 600 wildfires have burned in the province. The largest, at more than 210,000 hectares, is a fire west of Williams Lake in the Cariboo Fire District. Closer to home, the Elephant Hill fire, west of Kamloops, has burned through 168,000 hectares.

Both fires remain still out of control.

Hot August weather — with little apparent relief in the form of moisture — means the burning will likely continue.

 

“We had a big push this past weekend,” said Mr. Skrepnek. “We had a pretty significant wind system move through the Cariboo. And unfortunately, we’re not seeing a whole lot of rain in sight, if any, for most of the southern part of the province.

“It’s going to remain relatively dry and we expect the winds are going to pick up this weekend again. (That means) no reprieve yet in terms of weather.”

Despite a very busy fire season, Mr. Skrepnek says BC’s wildfire team is holding up well.

“It’s been a long summer, not only with fire but we were quite involved with the flood response as well in April and May,” he said. “Spirits are high but it has been a long arduous five or six weeks here.”

The additional of contract crews — firefighters and treefallers — and assistance from other provinces and even countries has helped, he said.

“That’s been key in terms of managing fatigue among our crew and staff.”

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