B.C.'s wildfire season 'highly dependent on local weather patterns,' province says
Comparing B.C.'s wildfire risk from June 21, 2019 to June 21, 2020. (BC Wildfire Service)
VANCOUVER -- While it started with drier-than-normal conditions, B.C's 2020 wildfire season has seen a limited number of ignitions at the start, the province says in its seasonal outlook.
According to the outlook, which was released by the BC Wildfire Service Friday, that's mostly because of plenty of underlying moisture from snowmelt and periodic rain in April, May and the first half of June.
"Rainfall patterns during the spring and summer months have a significant influence on the severity of the wildfire season in B.C.," the outlook says.
As of Friday, 168 wildfires have started in this year's season and 662 hectares have burned. The five-year average is 328 fires per season, with 40,569 hectares burned.
"B.C. remains in a weather pattern that is producing periodic rainfall and, therefore, limited fire starts can be expected," the outlook says.
"However, the remainder of the wildfire season in B.C. will be highly dependent on local weather patterns, length of drying periods and wind events."
The outlook says the frequency of rain – not how much falls – will be key to keeping wildfires small this year.
As well, lightning strikes will be less threatening if they happen while it's raining. In fact, because of the relatively wet season recently, even though there were more than 19,000 lightning strikes across B.C. in the first 19 days of this month, only five started fires.
Across the province, B.C.'s fire danger rating is mostly rated at either "very low" or "low." This time last year, much of the province had a "moderate" danger rating.
Even so, 2019 was the first year since 2012 that B.C.'s coastal fire centre – which covers the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii – didn't have a campfire ban.
But 2020's fire season is far from over and the wildfire service says periods of warm and dry conditions are forecast in some areas of the province.
"Everyone who plans to spend time outdoors in the coming weeks is encouraged to use caution with any activity that could potentially spark a wildfire," the wildfire service says.