BC Wildfire Service image of ongoing Shovel Lake wildfire. The fire is currently active at 86,397 hectares as of Aug. 21.

BC Wildfire Service image of ongoing Shovel Lake wildfire. The fire is currently active at 86,397 hectares as of Aug. 21.

B.C. wildfire season now second worst in province’s history

Only second to 2017 where more than one million hectares burned

A year after the single worst season for wildfires in British Columbia’s history, government statistics indicate the 2018 wildfire season has already reached the second-worst mark, burning 945 square kilometres of land so far.

That should prompt a longer look and more research into the trend, which saw more than 2,100 square kilometres of land burned over the past two years, said the province’s chief fire information officer.

Speaking from the Provincial Wildfire Coordination Centre in Kamloops, B.C., Skrepnek explained how the two seasons have been very different so far.

He said in 2017, the most troublesome fires all started in a three-day period in early July, burning for months and merging with other fires. While fires merging is a common phenomenon, he said the sheer volume of blazes ignited in those three days created weeks-long battles for firefighters.

“We had hundreds of fires start in that period. And the major incidents that turned into the massive fires — the 100,000-hectare-plus fires that basically burned until the fall — were in that period,” said Skrepnek.

In contrast, 2018 has seen almost 600 hundred more fires than 2017, said Skrepnek, but most were more manageable due to a wet spring.

“We had a wetter June this year which has definitely, definitely been a saving grace for us,” he said, adding the rainfall in June that prompted flooding across much of the southern part of province provided firefighters a head start.

READ MORE: Protest erupts after BC Wildfire Service nixes sprinkler idea to combat large fire

READ MORE: ‘The magnitude is unfathomable’: B.C. animal lover helps livestock flee wildfires

The BC Wildfire Service says last year saw more than 1,200 square kilometres burned and roughly 65,000 people displaced or evacuated from their homes.

Skrepnek said more structures were destroyed last year than so far in 2018 — roughly 140, although he confirmed more than half were outbuildings and not necessarily residences or homes.

“It’s looking like in the neighbourhood of over 50 homes destroyed,” said Skrepnek.

Susan Williams of Emergency Management BC said it’s too early to tell just how many people have been displaced from their homes, but said that between May 24 and Aug. 26, 5,396 people have registered for emergency social services.

“Not everybody registers, and this includes people who evacuated even if they were under alert, so it takes a while to figure out the other numbers,” said Williams from the agency’s headquarters near Victoria.

Data shows the province spent more than $568 million in firefighting efforts, and while the figures for 2018 are still coming together, Skrepnek estimates they will spend more than $300 million suppressing wildfires.

“We’ll definitely be one of the most expensive on record this year,” said Skrepnek.

Skrepnek said they have approximately 4,500 people currently working under the BC Wildfire Service province-wide, and that his organization would be looking at multiple ways to increase resources.

He said firefighters contracted from forestry and firefighting companies are always a large part of provincial fire suppression efforts, but this year they added a first-ever pool of roughly 80 “Type 2” firefighters working directly for the BC Wildfire Service.

“These are contract firefighters, but we train them, and they have to meet a higher fitness standard than other contractors,” Skrepnek said.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Northwest Fire Centre based out of Smithers, B.C., has borne the brunt of the this season, seeing fires that have burned roughly 540 square kilometres.

That’s nearly five times more than the second-highest region, the Prince George Fire Centre, 370 kilometres southeast of Smithers.

Before 2017, the worst year for wildfires in B.C. history was 1958, which is now the third-worst year.

Spencer Harwood, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Terry Driver as he looked around the time of the killing of Tanya Smith and the attempted murder of Misty Cockerill in Abbotsford in October 1995. No current photos are available of Driver.
‘Abbotsford Killer’ Terry Driver denied parole, deemed ‘high risk’ to re-offend

Driver murdered Tanya Smith, 16, and seriously injured Misty Cockerill, 15, in 1995

Boats in the Fraser River launched from Barrowtown and Ft. Langley on May 12 to search for the missing fisherman. (Steve Simpson)
Boats search the Fraser River for missing Abbotsford fisherman

Anyone with ‘a boat, time, or a drone’ to help bring Damian Dutrisac home was asked to help

Mina Shahsavar is a fourth-year student in the bachelor of science in nursing program at University of the Fraser Valley and is an employed student nurse at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Submitted photo)
Nursing student in Abbotsford plans for career in critical care

Mina Shahsavar inspired during hospital stays as a child

The Canadian Forensic Health Corporation, made up of (left to right) Kirstin Simpson, Adrienne Fershau, Tiffany Kafka, Susan Short and Cole Bruce, are changing the game for the forensic nurse occupation. (Submitted)
Abbotsford nurses create Canadian Forensic Health Corporation

Tiffany Kafka, Susan Short, Kirstin Simpson, Cole Bruce and Adrienne Fershau teaching new generation

A pair of deer were spotted in Abbotsford on Tuesday (May 11) morning. (Submitted)
VIDEO: Pair of deer explore Abbotsford neighbourhood

Resident captures deer duo munching on foliage and then wandering off

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

What3words was first created in the U.K. in 2013 and is credited to saving the lives of outdoor enthusiasts around the world. (Contributed)
‘This is a life saving tool’: App helps paramedics find capsized canoeists near Revelstoke

What3words pinpoints the person’s phone location to a three-meter range

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Most Read