The province has warned British Columbians to remain alert to the threat of wildfires, as conditions are forecast to remain warm and dry throughout September.
The BC Wildfire Service says that in the last seven days (Aug. 31 to Sept. 6), 98 new fires were recorded around the province. One of these — the Lower Arthur Seat fire — ignited on Sept. 3 on the west side of the Thompson River near Big Horn, south of Spences Bridge. The fire was clearly visible from Highway 1 and grew to 25 hectares before being classed as Under Control by BCWS.
The exact cause of the fire is undetermined, but the Wildfire Service says that it was human-caused. It started the day after the Kamloops Fire Centre lifted a ban on campfires in the region, in time for the Labour Day long weekend.
An earlier fire, the Downton Creek fire southwest of Lillooet, was started by lightning on Aug. 21, and has now grown to 598 hectares. It is classed as Out of Control, and the BCWS has implemented an Area Restriction Order for the vicinity of the fire, which is located approximately 18 kilometres southwest of Lillooet. The area restriction reflects the continued need to protect the public in areas where there are ongoing fire suppression activities.
The order took effect on Sept. 4, and will remain in force until the earlier of either noon on Sept. 18 or until the order is rescinded. Travellers are still able to use Highway 99, but people must not remain in or enter the restricted area unless they are acting in an official capacity or travelling for the purpose of supporting wildfire suppression activities; travelling to or from their principal residence, that is not under an evacuation order; or travelling to or from a secondary residence or recreational property, that is not under an evacuation order.
To view a map of the area covered by the area restriction, go to http://ow.ly/YXuh50KzCAx.
Seasonal and above-seasonal temperatures forecast for September mean that the wildfire risk remains a concern throughout B.C. Although new wildfire starts are anticipated, the BC Wildfire Service has adequate resources and is prepared to activate additional resources if required.
As of Aug. 31, there were 182 active wildfires in the province. Since April 1, 2022 there have been 1,355 wildfires in B.C. that have resulted in 43,000 hectares burned. Of these 1,355 wildfires, 93 per cent are out, under control, or being held. As many as 75 per cent of the fire starts can be attributed to lightning.
By comparison, over the same time period last year there had been 1,562 fires, with 865,298 hectares burned.
The number of wildfires and area burned so far this year are lower than the 20-year average for British Columbia at this time of year, which is 1,515 fires, and 259,601 hectares burned.
“We were prepared for a challenging wildfire season after the devastating 2021 season, and it’s a relief that we haven’t seen major damage to communities or large evacuations this year,” says Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “While overall this has been a quieter wildfire season, my thoughts are with everyone who evacuated or lost a home this year.”
“B.C. is currently experiencing one of the lowest human-caused wildfire seasons since 1950,” says Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests. “Together with the BC Wildfire Service, I want to commend the public on their safe fire use and diligence in helping to prevent the spread of fire. We’re asking all British Columbians to continue the great work they have been doing this season for the remainder of the 2022 fire season.
”I also want to thank all BC Wildfire Service staff, contractors, First Nations, and industry partners for your service this season to protect communities.”
If you spot a fire, call (toll-free) 1-800-663-5555 (or *5555 from a cellphone) or use the Report of Fire function on the BC Wildfire Service app as soon as possible.
Information from the public is crucial to the effectiveness of the BC Wildfire Service’s response. Provide any information you can and expect to be asked details about the fire. If using the mobile app, submit with a photo. Reports with a photo allow the BC Wildfire Service to quickly assess and narrow down the location of the fire.