Cool, wet spring means fewer wildfires

What a difference a year makes - the cool, wet weather this spring means a big drop in the number of wildfires across the province compared to 2016. 

Fire Information Officer Max Birkner, at the Kamloops Fire Centre, says in the province this year there have been 13 fires for a total of 23 hectares burned, and that's quite a contrast from last year at this time when there had been 57 fires in the province and 774 hectares had been burned."

Birkner says in the Kamloops Fire region, which includes Kelowna, there have only been 2 wildfires compared to 10 in 2016.

Provincial Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek says it's a good start, but still too early to predict what will happen this summer..

"Folks in the Okanagan know they can have quite a bit of rain, and it doesn't take long for it to dry out, so it's hard to forecast that ahead of time," says Skrepnek. "With temperatures, to some degree, we can get a bit of an idea and Environment Canada is calling for a slightly warmer-than-normal summer - but rain; precipitation plays such a huge role in how busy the season will be." 

Typically, the spring rainy season begins in mid-May and lasts until July1st, and Skrepnek says "until we've had that rain and know where it's fallen, how much we've had and how long it's lingered for - that's a real key indicator on what the actual season's going to look like."  

Skrepnek says, as in previous years, the province has budgeted $63-million to fight forest fires this year, but generally ends up spending more. The last slow season was in 2011 when they came in under budget.

In 2016, the province spent $129-million fighting wildfires across BC.