Wildfire in pine beetle-attacked forest at Eutsuk Lake in northern B.C., 2014. (Black Press files)

B.C.’s 2019 forest fire season off to a slow, wet start

‘New normal’ of widespread wildfires fails to appear so far

After two consecutive record forest fire seasons, B.C. emergency officials are seeing a slow start to the 2019 B.C. wildfire season, with wet conditions in the south and high fire risk only in the remote northwest.

Former B.C. cabinet minister George Abbott’s review of the 2017 fire season was called “Addressing the New Normal” of smoke-filled skies. The report was released last year as a second summer of evacuation alerts and scorched timber gathered steam.

This summer has started with the old normal, weather unpredictability. After a second straight cold winter with lower than average snowpacks, a dry spring has given way to heavy rain across the more populous parts of B.C.

In the Cariboo, the B.C. River Forecast Centre declared a flood warning for the Chilcotin River this week after 90 mm of rain fell in four days. It was the first flood warning issued since January, upending another recent trend of early flooding followed by dry conditions.

Heavy rains also fell through the Prince George area. In the Peace region, the early-season grass and forest fires of previous years were replaced by late-season snow that appeared as late as June.

The total area burned as of this week was just under 120 square km, a tiny fraction of the total from last year at this time. The biggest current B.C. fire, at Alkali Lake near the Yukon border, is actually a cluster of seven deep-burning “holdover” fires from last year’s Telegraph Creek blaze on the east side of the Stikine River.

There has been a scattering of small fires sparked by lightning on Vancouver Island and in the Kootenay region, with thunderstorms often including significant rainfall. Statistics from previous years suggest that if wet weather carries on further into summer, the wildfire window is reduced along with the period for forests to dry out.

Fires and salvage logging have reduced much of the timber killed in B.C.’s latest mountain pine beetle epidemic, with timber harvest reduced from artificially high levels of recent years.

After a recent tour of northern regions affected by forest industry shutdowns, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad said he observed widespread signs of spruce beetle infestation, with “red attack” and “grey attack” stands visible north of Prince George. That represents a new risk for fast-spreading fires as well as an additional threat to B.C.’s struggling forest products industry.

The province is continuing work on preparations for flooding and forest fires, following the 2018 recommendations from Abbott and former Sto:lo Nation chief Maureen Chapman.

RELATED: Emergency preparation fund gets $31M boost

RELATED: Chilcotin River flood warning after heavy rain

That report focused on fire and flood prevention and preparations, especially improving communications with remote communities. As part of the response, the B.C. government added $31 million to a community emergency preparedness fund for local governments and Indigenous communities, bringing the total funding to $69.5 million.

B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer’s 2018 report on B.C.’s management of climate change risks reinforced the findings of Abbott and Chapman, that intense flood and wildfire seasons will become more common as the climate changes.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Council approves plan to reopen city offices, some facilities

Cranbrook is eyeing a reopening of city offices and facilities over the… Continue reading

Council mulls drive-in events following new provincial restrictions

A new order from the province’s top doctor banning gatherings of 50… Continue reading

Farm life: lessons learned while working from home

It’s important to slow down, be kind to one another, and enjoy the little moments in life

Cranbrook 2020 property tax notices in the mail

Taxes are due on Thursday, July 2, 2020

Angel Flight takes to the skies once more

Angel Flight East Kootenay is once again offering free flights to Kelowna for medical appointments

The geese families of Idlewild

The geese families of Idlewild Park in Cranbrook, B.C., are out and… Continue reading

Chilliwack school board censures trustee Barry Neufeld after controversial Facebook post

Board chair issues statement on censure but little else regarding Facebook post controversy

Twenty-nine of Canada’s 48 national parks to reopen to day-use visitors June 1

All national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas have been closed for weeks

JK Rowling publishes first chapters of new story online

Book will be a fairy tale for kids and benefit those particularly affected by the pandemic

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

BC Corrections to expand list of eligible offenders for early release during pandemic

Non-violent offenders are being considered for early release through risk assessment process

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

Most Read