With wildfires on everyone’s again mind today and thoughts are with those being evacuated from Fort McMurray, large swathes of BC are also burning.
“Currently in BC, we have 85 fires burning across the province – 57 of those are in the Prince George Fire Centre,” says BC’s Chief Fire Information Officer. “The vast majority of those fires are isolated to the Peace region. We had eight new fires Tuesday across BC.”
Both the number and total area of the fires is far above average for this time of year.
“We’re at nearly twice the numbers of fires we’ve responded to for this time of year and in terms of hectares, we’re almost 20 times above average.”
Skrepnek says it’s been an intense start to the fire season. The situation is even more serious than it was at this time last year.
“We’ve had 203 fires since April 1st that have burnt over 23,000 hectares,” says Skrepnek. “Those numbers are unusually high for this time of year. At this time in 2015, we had had 93 fires burning only 746 hectares.”
The most concerning aspect is the cause of the vast majority of this year’s fires.
“Of those fires we’ve responded to to date, over 200 since April 1, nearly all of those fires have been human caused. Only four of those we’ve confirmed to have actually been the result of lightning.”
Even while battling blazes at home, BC is helping out in Alberta where it can.
“We have offered Alberta the use of air tankers and equipment. We have met a request from them that came in last night for some specific equipment including some Mark III pumps and some 400 lengths of fire hose.”
Skrepnek says BC has also agreed to continue to battle the Siphon Creek Blaze, even if it crosses the Alberta border. Due to weather conditions, it is expected to do so later today. Normally, BC firefighters would give way to Alberta workers but, due to the seriousness of the situation in Fort McMurray, BC firefighters will continue to battle that blaze.
Skrepnek would like to remind everyone in north central BC that open burning bans are still in place.
“We do have open fire prohibitions in place in the Cariboo and Prince George Fire Centres,” he says. “Campfires are still permitted throughout our jurisdiction but we do always ask people to check with local authorities before lighting any sort of fire as they could have their own regulations in place.”
You can find the latest updates on wildfires in BC on the BC Wildfire Service website.
(Files from Shannon Waters with MY PRINCE GEORGE NOW)