Rain desperately needed in June to slow down B.C. fire season momentum
Published Thursday, May 9, 2019 5:50PM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 9, 2019 7:21PM PDT
After an unusually dry March in the Okanagan, April did not fair much wetter.
“March was one of the driest on record and it remained quite dry in April as well,” said Bobby Sekhon with Environment Canada .
The first indications are that, for the third straight summer, the province’s wildfire season could cause record-breaking damage.
BC Wildfire Service’s Kevin Skrepnek said there is still time for Mother Nature to turn things around in the next six weeks.
“The June rains - basically from May long weekend until Canada Day long weekend - can really set the stage for how the fire season is going to play out,” he said.
The province is increasing its budget by nearly $40 million to allow for a more comprehensive prescribed burning program and new technology to help with early detection of fires.
Skrepnek says BC Wildfire Service can hire twice as many contractors this season.
Firefighters will also have more access to computers and iPads in the field, and drones will assist with fire mapping and infrared scanning.
Wildfires scorched a record-setting 13,500 square kilometres last year, forcing 65,000 people from their homes at the peak of the season.
UNBC Ecosystem Science and Management Professor Phil Burton said half of wildfires are human caused – and there is more people can do to prevent a bad fire season.
“The private land owners living in the woods, we really need to get the attention of those people to fire smart their homes and properties and reduce the risk of fire spread,” Burton said.
B.C. crews continue to gear up for unpredictable forest fire season.
More than 60 new recruits finished a week-long boot camp in Merritt, becoming new elite firefighters.