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Wildfire season strikes a month early in B.C. with 1,100 blazes to date

Dry conditions will see new fires spark across the province into fall, says B.C. Wildfire Services

British Columbia is in for an unrelenting season of wildfires, with extreme weather conditions expected to drag the ignition of new fires into fall.

That’s according to B.C. Wildfire Services operations manager Kurtis Isfeld, who said this year’s wildfire season has dawned a month early due to extreme weather.

A record-breaking heat wave along with 200,000 lightning blasts and little rain has thrust the province into an early season of wildfire.

“Normally, during this time of year B.C. would be sitting at 209 fires,” Isfeld said at the first regularly scheduled provincial wildfire briefing Friday (July 15).

Since April, 1,100 wildfires have burned a total of 203,000 hectares. As of Thursday, there were 27 highly visible blazes across the province that pose a potential threat to public safety.

Nearly half of this season’s fires, 48 per cent, have been triggered by lightning and 35 per cent are believed to be human-caused. The remaining are still under investigation.

“Human-caused wildfires are entirely preventable,” noted Isfeld, saying these sorts of blazes divert firefighting resources from naturally occurring fires.

Firefighters in short supply

B.C. Wildfire Services is also strapped for resources this season, said Isfeld.

It’s struggling to employ more than the 2,500 local workers and 118 out-of-province personnel it retains due to neighbouring jurisdictions including the U.S. and the rest of Canada also battling dry conditions with firefighters needed there locally.

“With the current resource challenges that we have, we are unable to commit to all new ignitions,” said Isfeld. “Our focus at this point is on allocating those resources to values of life and safety.”

As of current, 306 active wildfires are burning in the province and 30 evacuation orders and 51 alerts have been sent out, according to Emergency Management BC.

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