The B.C. government says although wildfires have broken last year’s record for the area of land burned, the human impacts have been much lower.
Fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek of the BC Wildfire Service said fires have scorched about 12,520 square kilometres this season, compared with 12,160 square kilometres last year.
“We have set that record in terms of total area burned, but definitely not the worst season on record from the broader sense,” he said.
The 2017 and 2003 fire seasons had higher impacts in terms of property, environmental and timber values, he said, although he did not have all of those figures readily available.
Emergency Management B.C. said it has received 155 reports of structures lost, compared with the 310 reported by the same date last year. However, it noted that figure could change as people return home and report what they find.
In terms of fire suppression costs, Skrepnek said the service has spent $316-million to date this season, compared with $442-million for the same date last year.
While Skrepnek says it’s too early to say the worst is over, he’s optimistic that may be the case.
Lower temperatures and higher humidity across most of the province has reduced the likelihood of dry lightning and helped firefighters knock down dozens of fires in recent days, bringing the total number of active fires down to 512. Forecasts suggest that will continue into the long weekend.
“What we’re seeing right now weatherwise could be a bit of a temporary reprieve, so we obviously have to stay fairly vigilant. But based on the current outlook and the ... prospects for some additional rain, it’s definitely good news for most of the province right now,” Skrepnek said.
One exception is the area between Smithers and Prince George, which falls under a rain shadow and has seen very little precipitation, he said.
Even in areas where the fire danger may have decreased, Skrepnek said it’s important to obey campfire bans and other restrictions as people head into the long weekend.
“We don’t want people getting complacent out there. It’s still very dry in many areas and of course we do still have a campfire ban in place for almost the entire province, with the exception of the fog zone on the western coast of Vancouver Island and for some parts of northeastern B.C. where they’ve seen a considerable amount of rain,” Skrepnek said.
He also asked that people going into the backcountry obey area restrictions and avoid active wildfire sites.