A wildfire is currently burning on Mount Seymour, east of the Seymour River, in North Vancouver Wednesday (July 12, 2023). B.C. Wildfire Service currently lists the fire as out of control, and was 0.3 hectares. (Metro Vancouver Regional District Emergency Services/Twitter)

Human-caused wildfires down this year in B.C., especially recently

Officials says only 13 of the 235 starts in the past week were human caused

B.C. is seeing a pronounced drop in the number of human-caused wildfires this year, well down from its 40 per cent yearly average.

That message was part of the update from government and wildfire officials Tuesday (July 18), where Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma noted that of the 235 wildfire starts in the past seven days, only 13 were human caused.

READ MORE: ‘Long, complex and challenging’: Worsening drought feeds wildfire risk

READ MORE: 1.39M hectares: B.C. wildfire season now worst on record

“Please keep up the good work and remain cautious with any activity that could lead to a wildfire,” she said.

According to Ma, B.C. is facing 391 active fires, with about half of those out of control. B.C. Wildfire Service notes 22 of those are human-caused and 39 per cent are unknown. The remainder list lightning as the cause. Human-caused fires account for about 5.6 per cent of the fires, but even if it were to include those with unknown causes it would only be 15.6 per cent.

Since April 1, there have been 1,219 fires, with 797 of those caused by lightning, 350 human-caused and 72 unknown.

The 350 human-cased wildfires account for about 28.7 per cent of all fires, but even if it were to include the 72 unknown causes it would account for 34.6 per cent.

The wildfire service lists vehicle and engine use; industrial activity; fireworks, sky lanterns and outdoor flame lighting; and discarding burning items such as cigarettes as human causes.

“The most important thing about human-caused wildfires is that they are preventable. The easiest way to fight a wildfire is to prevent it from starting. Humans start wildfires in several ways, either by accident or intentionally.”

B.C. Wildfire Service operations director Cliff Chapman said the province is seeing a reduced number of human-caused wildfires this season, mostly dealing with lightning-caused starts for the better part of the last month, with “thousands upon thousands of lightning strikes.”

When it comes to human-caused fires, he said the backyard burning leads to the most wildfires. They can become unreliable for people who use fire as a tool within their property if the weather shifts.

“Maybe it’s a wind shift or the weather wasn’t read very well for the next 24 hours, so that’s the general cause. There are obviously a bunch of others that are kind of contained within the bucket of human caused wildfires.”

RELATED: Asthmatic B.C. boy who died amid wildfire smoke called ‘face of climate crisis’


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