A cooler, damper start to spring this year has eased early wildfire worries in British Columbia, but officials are monitoring several regions closely.
The B.C. Wildfire Service released its latest seasonal outlook last week, which found below normal temperatures, above rainfall and snowpack retention have contributed to reduced early-season risk.
“The number of fires and hectares (burned) to date are significantly lower than last year and the 10 year average,” fire information officer Carly Desrosiers told Global News.
There have been 98 fires so far this year, burning just 365 hectares, compared to 170 fires this time last year burning 2,000 hectares. The 10-year average for this time is 112 fires burning 6,000 hectares.
The vast majority of fires so far have been human caused, Desrosiers said.
Despite the positive start to the season, Desrosiers said the wildfire service is closely watching parts of the Okanagan, Thompson-Nicola and Peace regions which faced extreme drought at the end of the 2021 season.
“For most of the province we did see overwinter precipitation so the snow helped to recover that droughtt, however there are certain areas such as Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook and Fort St. John where the snow didn’t mitigate that drought all together, and those are areas where we saw less than normal precipitation in the month of April,” she said.
Looking ahead to the summer, Desrosiers said it’s still too early to say what the season will look like.
The 2021 heat dome, she said, shows how unpredictable seasonal weather can be, and that how much rain falls before July will be critical.
“The June rain is typically something we do consider as a large factor predicting what the rest of the season will bring,” she said.
“Both the amount and the frequency and duration of rain we get between now and the end of June will majorly impact what we do have in July and August for fire activity.”
In the meantime, Desrosiers is encouraging British Columbians to visit the B.C. FireSmart website to learn about how to prepare their property to reduce fire danger.