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'When, not if': British Columbians warned to prepare for wildfire evacuations

The provincial wildfire service is warning British Columbians to have a go-bag and make an evacuation plan with this year’s wildfire season off to an alarming start. 

The Donnie Creek Complex, which is a melding of what had been four distinct fires, has already burned an area larger than last year’s entire fire season combined – roughly the size of the Lower Mainland – and the number of fires so far is well above the same period last year, as well as the 10-year average.

“For most areas of the province it's a matter of when, not if, you will be threatened by a wildfire,” said BC Wildfire Service fire information officer, Jean Strong. “It's important we prepare as much as possible in advance.” 

Natural Resources Canada’s Fire Weather Index shows nearly half the province in the top danger range, with the BC Wildfire Service’s “Danger rating map” showing two thirds of the province as moderate to high risk of wildfire, with pockets of extreme risk.

“Portions of the Donnie Creek wildfire had been aggressive fire behaviour in recent days as organized crown fire fronts advance into volatile black spruce and mature pine stand,” reads the situation report for the province’s biggest wildfire. 


Environment and Climate Change Canada’s warning preparedness meteorologist for B.C. pointed out that not only was May an exceptionally dry month, but the province has faced drier-than-normal conditions for an extended period of time.

“The precipitation deficit over the entire province is actually multi-season long, you can look back even a couple years and most of the province is behind in precipitation numbers,” explained Armel Castellan.

He added that June is typically the last chance for some intermittent rain to offset or reduce wildfire risk before the dry summer months set in. 

“There's so much pressure on the month of June, every single year,” he said, adding the weekend could see a shift. “We do see some potential rain to come for southern B.C.”


Unlike in past years when provinces have sent fire crews to each other for help, that’s unlikely to happen with 426 active wildfires already burning across the country.

The natural resources minister says 10 times as much area has already burned compared to normal for this time in the year, and the federal government has already brought in a thousand firefighters to help save homes in the hardest-hit provinces.

The prime minister thanked American, French, Australian, New Zealander, and South African firefighters who’ve been arriving over the course of weeks and announced more are on the way.

“We're engaging with other international partners about more reinforcements over the coming weeks,” said Justin Trudeau.

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, 24 new fires started across the country today, 17 of them in B.C. Nationwide, the agency is at “Level 5” alert, its highest ranking for danger, fire load and anticipated fires in the next week, with agency resource levels deemed “inadequate.” British Columbia is considered Level 2, with moderate risk and adequate resources. Top Stories

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