For the second year in a row, the province of British Columbia is under a state of emergency due to wildfires, leaving many to wonder if this will be the new normal.
Experts say the way the province has been managing its forests may have partly contributed to the problem.
Critics of B.C.’s forest management believe the province should have been doing controlled burns on a massive scale months, if not years, ago.
WATCH: Wildfires force B.C. to declare province-wide state of emergency
“We start adding in infrastructure costs, business losses, the evacuation costs, everything else, and these fire seasons run into the billions of dollars every year,” fire ecologist Robert Gray of R.W. Gray Consulting Ltd. said.
For decades, forest management in B.C. meant protecting the trees, and it’s that policy that some are blaming for the recent record-breaking wildfire seasons.
The province has done some burning of forest floor fuels, but Gray refers to them as “postage-stamp stuff.”
‘You have to have it contiguous,” he said. “Right now we’ve done so little that our fires aren’t even touching our treatments because we’ve done so few.”
The B.C. Wildfire Service is among the many who believe the new normal consists of a fire season that starts earlier in the year and ends later with drier, hotter weather throughout.
WATCH: What will the state of emergency mean for the B.C. wildfire fight?
“The report that came out of last year was called Addressing The New Normal so definitely now we’ve had back-to-back, very severe fire seasons,” Kevin Skrepnek of the B.C. Wildfire Service said.
“In the past four or five years, we’ve had severe seasons as well and two years in a row we’re now declaring a state of emergency.”
A prescribed burn doesn’t mean a scorched earth policy. The process involves igniting only the undergrowth but on a scale as large as the wildfires themselves.
“If we see disturbances at the scale of 20,000 hectares, our treatments have to be at a very similar scale,” Gray said.
“Prescribed burnings are definitely an important part of mitigating and preventing fires down the road,” Skrepnek said.