Human-caused wildfires can easily be prevented, yet they continue to account for many of the wildfires in B.C. each year. (Photo credit: Amber Oliver)

Human-caused wildfires can easily be prevented, yet they continue to account for many of the wildfires in B.C. each year. (Photo credit: Amber Oliver)

Human-caused wildfires can be prevented

Many of the wildfires that have devastated BC in the last five years were caused by careless humans

The summer fire season is still a few weeks away, but already fire crews in the South Okanagan and elsewhere have been called to extinguish out-of-control campfires.

In northern B.C., a ban on Category 2 and 3 fires has already been put in place, after an out of control human-caused wildfire was spotted on April 16 northeast of Terrace.

After the recent devastating wildfire seasons in British Columbia, such fires are puzzling and disheartening. The three worst wildfire seasons in British Columbia’s recorded history have occurred in the last five years.

In 2018, 2,117 fires destroyed 1.35 million hectares of land. This is the worst fire season on record. The previous year was the second-worst, with more than 1.2 million hectares destroyed. And in 2021, wildfires destroyed 869,279 hectares.

There are also significant costs involved in firefighting efforts. Last year, the province spent $565 million in fire suppression efforts. There were 4,000 firefighters from British Columbia involved in these efforts, as well as 917 out-of-province firefighters.

Each year, human-caused wildfires account for a significant percentage of the province’s wildfires. Last year, human-caused wildfires accounted for more than one-third of the total for the year. An abandoned campfire or a carelessly discarded cigarette can result in a massive wildfire. It takes years — if not decades — for a burned forest to recover from such a loss.

That does not include what happens when a wildfire encroaches on communities like Lytton.

Anyone who lived in this province during these years will remember the province-wide states of emergency, the evacuation alerts, the smoky skies, and the poor air quality as the fires raged.

This year’s conditions could also prove challenging, as the present snow pack conditions in the Okanagan, Boundary, and Similkameen are all below normal levels.

What happens this year is yet to be determined. Naturally-caused fires are beyond our control, but human-caused fires can be prevented.

After the conditions in this province in recent years, wildfire safety should be a priority for all. The devastation experienced last year, as well as in 2017 and 2018, should serve as sombre reminders of the destructive power of a wildfire.



editorial@accjournal.ca

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