Fire season off to slow start, but BC's not out of the woods yet

This past spring has been very warm and dry, and that raises the concern of the risk of wildfires starting across the province, including on Vancouver Island.

Many parts of BC, including the CRD, are listed as a High on the BC Wildfire Service's Fire Danger Rating Scale.

However, Chief Fire Information Officer for the BC Wildfire Service, Kevin Skrepnek, says despite the abundance of dry spots, and the few fires that have burned so far this year, the statistics show that there's actually not much fire activity right now, but we're not out of the woods yet. 

"We're actually a little below average in the term of numbers of fires we've had in so far.  In terms of the hectares burned, in terms of the area that's been burned by the fires, it's actually about half what our average would be for this time of year.  So it certainly hasn't necessarily been a busy season yet, but having said that, looking at some of our previous busy years, 2017 comes to mind, that was also a really slow spring from a fire perspective with flooding. Of course, the big concern in 2017 is it wasn't until July that things really took off that year."

He adds this slow start has meant they could deploy some of their fire crews to go help out in Alberta, where a wildfire forced thousands of people out of their homes in the northern community of Chuckegg Creek. 

So far this fire season, 264 fires have started in BC, and Skrepnek says of those, 7 were caused by lightning, and the others are human caused, and preventable, and one of  his biggest concerns is complacency.

"We haven't had a busy fire season, to this part.  It is June, in many parts of the province it's a little dreary, a little grey, and people may not necessarily think the hazard's there, the danger's there, but it absolutely is."

He adds that Victoria's Police Chief ticketing the cigarette-butt-tosser has people thinking of the causes of fires, but human caused fires can come from a wide range of sources and activities.

"Sure campfires is part of that, but it's industrial activities, it's people doing larger sized kind of open burning.  When things get really hot and dry, even the use of off-road vehicles in tall grass, the heat of exhaust pipe and the engine can be enough to spark a fire."

He says knowing the causes is great, but people also have to be prepared for if a fire does start, by reviewing the Fire Smart BC plan.

Skrepnek adds that the hot spots right now are Vancouver Island, the South Coast, and Northeast BC, and anyone who spots a wildfire should report it by calling *5555.

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