FILE – Crews with the Saanich Fire Department battle grassfire near Uptown. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Unusually dry March leads to dozens of grass fires in B.C.

Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek says many not careful this time of year

An unseasonably dry March has led to more than 20 recent grass fires across B.C., with nearly all caused by people.

This spring is shaping up to be quite different from the previous year, when flooding and heavy snow packs brought wet conditions well into May.

RELATED: Seven small wildfires burning in B.C. as warm weather brings dry conditions

RELATED: Unseasonable heat melts heavy snowpacks in B.C., making more floods likely

B.C.’s chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek told Black Press Media grass fires are not uncommon this time of year, but it is around the same officials start to see a growing number of human-caused fires.

“The risk isn’t a top of mind for people, given that we aren’t in that core summer period,” he said in a phone interview from the service’s Kamloops headquarters Tuesday.

Crews were deployed to two sizable fires in recent days, the first burning more than 250 hectares in Kamloops and the second still burning at roughly 15 hectares northeast of Squamish.

Roughly 40 per cent of all wildfires in B.C. are human-caused, with most the rest caused by summer lightning strikes. But those storms don’t usually happen until June.

“Every fire we see this time of year is preventable one way or another,” Skrepnek said.

Most of the time, it’s open burning that gets out of control.

“When they are burning, they are quite aggressive, they can grow quite quickly. Then generally as we get a hold on them, they don’t smoulder for too long because it was burning up those fine fuels as opposed to an actual forest fire where big trees are burning.”

Wildfire official hopeful for a rainy May

Skrepnek said B.C.’s wildfire season is broken up into two portions: between now and mid-May, when the grass begins to dry after the remnants of winter melt away, and then from the Canada Day long weekend until about September.

In between, the amount of rain we get can determine how aggressive the sparks will be during summer.

READ MORE: Fire officials warn of ‘overwintering’ fires as winter melts away

In the meantime, crews have begun prescribed burning in vulnerable regions. Controlled burns aim to prevent forest fires by burning through top layers of fuel, as well as help restore ecosystems that have adapted to seasonal infernos. They can also be part of First Nation cultural practices.

A lot of preparation goes into prescribed burns, Skrepnek said. “If we’re putting fire out on the landscape, we have to make sure we put contingencies in place, we don’t want it to turn into a wildfire, and we have to wait for the right conditions.”

Discarded cigarettes, campfires, ATVs all run the risk of sparking a fire

Skrepnek urged caution to outdoor enthusiasts and others who may forget grass fires can happen outside the summer season.

Discarded cigarettes and campfires left burning are two common causes, but heat from the exhaust pipe of an ATV or off-road vehicle can be all it takes for long grass to catch.

“You only have to look back to the last few summers to see how bad things can get.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Denman Island Baroque Festival coming in May

It’s back, and it’s bigger than ever. The third annual Denman Island… Continue reading

VIDEO: Comox’s waving granny gets incredible send-off from Highland Secondary students

Tinney Davidson has been waving at kids on their way to school for over 11 years, but is moving in a month

Island-born Snowbirds pilot enjoying homecoming in skies over Comox

Logan Reid once stood clinging onto the fence outside the Comox Air… Continue reading

Comox Valley Schools board chair addresses RCMP investigation into assault of student

Comox Valley Schools (School District 71) board of education chair, Janice Caton,… Continue reading

Tom Cochrane and Red Rider coming to Vancouver Island MusicFest

Executive producer Doug Cox has landed Canadian Music Hall of Famer Tom… Continue reading

Canada privacy watchdog taking Facebook to court

If the court application is successful, it could lead to modest fines and an order for Facebook to revamp its privacy

Shutterbugs submit their favourite Snowbirds pics

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in Comox for their annual spring training… Continue reading

Oak Bay Sgt. struggles through emotional testimony in double murder trial

Andrew Berry is charged with second-degree murder in deaths of daughters Chloe (6) and Aubrey (4)

New immigrants healthier than Canadian-born population

In 2016, 7.5 million immigrants were accounted for in Canada

One million recyclable bottles ‘lost’ daily in B.C., foundation says

387 million beverage containers didn’t make it back into the province’s regulated deposit refund system in 2017

Struggling B.C. adoption agency elects new board that intends to keep it open

The previous board announced that Choices would close May 31

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Cumberland to consider declaring a climate state of emergency

The declaration will be discussed at the 2019 Strategic Priorities meeting in June

Most Read