It’s only early July, but with hundreds of wildfires sparking up in the last two days alone, some are concerned that B.C. could be on track for a record fire season.
But even with fires flaring up from north to south, the province isn’t seeing too many compared to previous years.
The latest numbers from the BC Wildfire Service estimate that 23,697 hectares have been burned in the province by 552 fires since the beginning of the season.
About half of those fires have started in the last week.
It’s enough to concern Lori Daniels, an associate professor of forestry at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
“The bottom two-thirds of the province, everybody is at a high to extreme fire danger,” Daniels said.
With the sudden rash of fires breaking out and a weather forecast offering little relief in the near future, Daniels said the flames could continue to spread throughout July and August.
“There’s a 30-30-30 rule we talk about: when it’s greater than 30 degrees Celsius, relative humidities are below 30 per cent and the winds are greater than 30 kilometres an hour, that’s the perfect storm,” she said.
“Combine the dry lightning and you have the fires we saw throughout this weekend.”
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However, as apocalyptic as the fire situation currently feels, the province may not be on track to break any records just yet.
“If you were to look at a 10-year average or even compare it to some of our previous seasons, it’s actually a pretty low number, the reason being up until a few weeks ago this had actually been a pretty quiet fire season,” said Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek.
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The near 24,000 hectares burned remains a small fraction of the more than 300,000 hectares of land that was scorched by more than 1,800 fires during the drought-stricken summer of 2015.
“We have had several fire seasons that have been remarkable in the last decade. We had an early start to the fire season even last year and then it cooled down a bit, so maybe we’ll get a reprieve as we did last year,” Daniels said.
Daniels said 2003 still stands out as the hottest and driest year on record, but said with two-thirds of the province already at a high to extreme fire rating, anything is possible.