An overheated forest fire season in British Columbia resulted in a near-record loss of timber — the third highest total since 1950 when the government started keeping track.
Chief provincial fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said Monday 1,424 fires consumed more than 3,590 square kilometres of forest this season.
Skrepnek said an intense provincewide hot weather spell in July, where temperatures soared to 40 C in some areas, dried out forests and contributed to extreme fire conditions that lasted much of the summer.
"When you look at the statistics in terms of the number of fires we're had, we've had a little over 1,400 — 1,424 — that's actually below average in terms of the number of fires," he said. "So, what we saw this year was a below average number of fires, but in terms of the area burned, quite above normal."
The largest fire of the year occurred near the Chelaslie River near Burns Lake, consuming 1,330 square kilometres. It's still burning, but 75 per cent contained.
"We had a pretty steady season — nothing spectacular — until the second week in July, and then we had an unseasonably high system come in and add really hot temperatures, record-breaking temperatures," said Skrepnek. "We had a high-pressure system that stretched into the Yukon. That was what set the season off."
Skrepnek said cooler temperatures and rain showers this week are expected to signal the conclusion of the core fire season.
The top two B.C. fire seasons were recorded in 1958 when fires burned 8,590 square kilometres and in 1961 when 4,830 square kilometres of forest land was burned.
Skrepnek says the provincial government has spent more than $293 million fighting fires this year, but the government allocated just $63 million in its budget to cover fire costs.
Last year, the province spent $122 million fighting 1,857 fires.