B.C. has emerged from one of its sunnier summers in recent years with a below-average number of forest fires.
As of Sept. 1, the B.C. government’s wildfire management branch record 1,687 reported wildfires for the season, compared to an average year of nearly 2,000 fires. This year’s fires burned a total of 11,434 hectares, far less than the average damage of more than 130,000 hectares.
Wet weather returned with school to large parts of the province, after a sunny summer that saw several dry-weather records set. For the first time since records were kept, Vancouver airport recorded no rain for the entire month of July.
The number of reported fires so far this year is slightly higher than the total for last year, but the total area burned in 2012 was nearly 10 times greater. The province spent $133 million on firefighting last year, a total that should be much lower when the bills are added up for 2013.
Open burning remains banned for the Southeast Fire Centre region until as late as Sept. 20. Campfire bans were lifted Aug. 26 for the Kamloops and Coastal Fire Centre regions, and earlier in the month for the Northwest, Cariboo and Prince George regions as dry conditions were relieved.
Despite public information campaigns and open burning restrictions, provincial statistics continue to show about 40 per cent of wildfires are human caused, with most of the rest sparked by lightning.
The relatively quiet fire season allowed B.C. to send crews to help battle wildfires in Washington, Montana and Idaho during August.
Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press newspapers. He’s based in Victoria.