Wildfires burnt a total 143

Wildfires burnt a total 143

Help prevent wildfires as season approaches

Bulkley Valley residents are being urged to help prevent a repeat of last year’s damaging wildfire season.

Bulkley Valley residents are being urged to help prevent a repeat of last year’s damaging wildfire season.

In 2014, wildfires burnt a total 143,312 hectares of forest in the northwest fire region, which covers a 25-million hectare expanse of land from Tweedsmuir Park north to the Yukon border.

Firefighting in the region is managed by the Northwest Fire Centre in Smithers, which coordinates the movements of about 100 firefighters in six bases.

Northwest Fires Centre fire information officer Olivia Pojar said the number of fires in the northwest fire district was below average in 2014, with 84 fires compared with the 10-year average of 264.

However, dry conditions allowed big fires to burn through more than 140,000 hectares of forest.

Pojar said the fires were abnormally large for this region, where the 10-year average is 1,774 hectares.

“The size of the fires was significantly larger than what we normally see in the northwest,” she said.

“It’s just related to weather mostly.

“We had a very dry summer and there wasn’t a whole lot of precipitation, especially during the core summer months of July and August.”

Firefighters from Alberta and Australia were last year part of the local effort to quell the fires.

The last comparable fire season was in 2010, when 126,032 hectares were destroyed by fire.

Prescribed burns, known as fuel management, are sometimes conducted in high-risk areas around Burns Lake, Houston, Telkwa and Terrace.

But Pojar said it was difficult to predict conditions in the long-term so it was important the public did its part to help prevent fires.

Last year, 34 of 83 fires in the northwest region were caused by people, while the remainder were a result of natural causes such as lightning strikes.

“The fires that start at this time of year, the large majority are human-caused so we are just trying to get the word out to be careful,” she said.

“All human-caused fires are preventable.”

Pojar urged the public to be cautious because weather conditions were highly unpredictable at this time of year.

“Anyone wishing to light an open fire must monitor weather conditions and follow all burning regulations to help reduce the number of preventable, human-caused wildfires,” she said.

She encouraged people to visit www.bcwildfire.ca/prevention for FireSmart information.

  • Do not burn during windy conditions. The wind can carry embers to other combustible material and start new fires.
  • Ensure that enough people, tools and water are on hand to control the fire.
  • Create a fireguard at least one metre in diameter around the planned fire site.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • If you are planning a large burn, consider conducting smaller burns around the perimeter beforehand to create a fuel break and help prevent the fire from spreading. Each of the fires should be kept small and must be completely extinguished before starting a new fire.
  • Make sure that your fire is completely extinguished and the ashes are cold to the touch before you leave the area.