There have been 820 fires across B.C. since April 1, according to the BC Wildfire service.
Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek reported that 13 new fires started Saturday, with 150 currently burning across the province as of 1 p.m. Sunday. Firefighting costs for the 426,000 hectares that have burned this fire season have hit $172.5 million. There are close to 4,000 personnel working across the province as part of the firefighting effort. Of those, 750 are out of province and 1,500 are contractors. The ground crews are supported by 200 aircraft.
Although it started slow, 2017 is shaping up to be a fire season for the history books, Skrepnek said. While the number of fires is not unusual, he noted, the sheer amount of hectares burned is.
“That is the third most area burned we’ve ever had in this province’s history,” said Skrepnek. “You’d have to look back till 1961 [when] we had 483,000 hectares burned and then in 1958 we had 855,000 hectares of land burned.”
Those figures are season totals, he noted – leaving plenty of time for 2017 to overtake them.
It’s not expected to get any better – there is no rain expected in the foreseeable future.
“We are expecting a fairly dramatic increase in temperatures, potentially reaching 40 degrees [Celsius] in parts of the central and southern interior by next week,” said Skrepnek. “That’s definitely a concern for us.”
The province will get a reprieve from the lightning that has caused many wildfires this summer.
“Any fires are going to be the result of human activity,” said Skrepnek.
Windy conditions have made for smoky skies across B.C. and embers blowing across the Bonaparte River caused the 70,387 hectare fire to jump the river. The Village of Clinton was put on evacuation order on Saturday. As of Sunday afternoon, the fire is 30 per cent contained.
“This is going to continue to be a real beast of a fire,” said Skrepnek.
There is good news on the wildfire front; the Martin Mountain fire is 90 per cent contained, Skrepnek said. BC Wildfire Service believes that the fire is human-caused but has yet to determine a specific cause.
“The fire is still holding at about 150 hectares in size,” he said. “This fire had a lot of potential to take off… it had a lot of fuel at the head of the fire: an almost uninterrupted sea of timber.”
Emergency Management BC deputy minister Robert Turner said that there are 6,000 wildfire evacuees as of Sunday but that those numbers don’t yet reflect Clinton evacuees.