KAMLOOPS, B.C. – A spike in human-caused wildfires across British Columbia has the forests minister calling for more vigilance from the public.
Steve Thomson said only 18 of the 31 flare-ups over the long weekend were caused by lightning while the rest had people to blame.
“One human-caused fire remains one too many,” Thomson said. “This continues to be a source of significant frustration to our wildfire service and to the province and to our ministry.”
As of Wednesday, 147 fires were burning in the province out of the nearly 1,400 blazes that started since April.
Flames have so far consumed about 2,800 square kilometres of land — considerably more than the 10-year average of about 600 square kilometres.
The government has floated the idea of stiffer fines on people who start fires through negligence, such as throwing burning cigarettes out of vehicle windows or leaving campfires unattended.
A report on the proposal is expected sometime this fall, Thomson said.
Kevin Skrepnek, B.C.’s chief fire information officer, said hot, dry conditions will likely lead to an increase in wildfires over the next few days.
More than 800 people remain involved in firefighting efforts, including 150 out-of-province personnel, mostly from Ontario and Australia.
Campfire bans remain in place through most of southern B.C.
Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek says some rain accompanied the lightning storm that swept across the southeastern region of B.C. late Tuesday; which helped reduce the danger.
He says scattered rain is also expected in the region over the next two days.
Crews will monitor the situation on a daily basis to see how the higher humidity affects drought conditions.
Only one evacuation order remains in place, at the Dog Mountain fire near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, though issues related to slope stability, not fire activity, are involved.
The Forests Ministry said the area’s shoreline is unsafe because of danger from trees and rolling debris.
Firefighting efforts have cost the province almost $175 million since April, compared to nearly $130 million spent by this time last year.