Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Record wildfire season in B.C. for area burned with almost 400 fires in the province

By The Canadian Press   

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July 18, 2023, British Columbia – British Columbia’s disastrous wildfire season has set a new record for the total area burned in a year, with almost 14,000 square kilometres scorched and hundreds of fires burning across the province.

The BC Wildfire Service website says 13,935 square kilometres have been burned since April 1, surpassing the previous record of 13,543 square kilometres set in 2018.

With months still to go in this year’s season, the service says there are almost 400 fires currently burning.

There have been 1,186 fires so far this year, suggesting the average size of the fires this year has been 84-per-cent larger than in 2018.

Bowinn Ma, minister of emergency management, said in a statement Tuesday that this fire season has been the most persistent on record.

“We know that the road ahead of us is long, complex and challenging,” she said. “Although we are still early in the fire season, it has already proven to be a difficult time for communities, First Nations, people living in the affected areas and BC Wildfire Service firefighters.”

Sophie Wilkinson, an assistant professor in environmental management at Simon Fraser University, said the fires are aggravated by the severe drought in many areas of the province.

She said the wildfire season is also “unprecedented” because there have been historic wildfire seasons in other provinces and territories, so interprovincial resources are stretched thin.

“Although military aid has not been common in the past, it will become increasingly common because the severity of both British Columbia and Canada’s wildfire seasons is increasing because of climate change,” Wilkinson said in an interview.

Her comments come after Canada’s Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair announced last week that federal assistance, including military resources, were being mobilized to help B.C. in its wildfire fight.

Canadian Armed Forces troops are arriving in B.C. this week to join the battle, bringing helicopters and a Hercules aircraft, while the province has asked for 1,000 more international firefighters to join crews from Mexico, the United States and Australia already on the ground.

Ma said she’s thankful the federal government quickly approved the request.

“This support is substantial, robust and will give British Columbia the tools and personnel it needs to keep people safe,” she said.

“These federal resources will join teams from Australia, as well as more than 350 international personnel currently in place in B.C. from the U.S., Mexico and New Zealand. These teams work alongside the approximate 2,000 BC Wildfire Service personnel across B.C.”

Dozens of properties have been put on evacuation order or alert in the Kootenay region in B.C.’s southeast after new wildfires near Cranbrook temporarily shut the city’s airport.

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