Danger remains as fire season wraps up

Province had third-worst season of hectares burned since record-keeping began in 1950.

Fire season is all but over, but conditions are still dry enough to be a danger, according to a fire information officer for the Southeast Fire Centre.

“Every day, it gets a little less dry,” said Jordan Turner, a fire information officer. “I know it’s been hot still through the East Kootenay area, so right now we’re keeping an eye on it every day, we still have crews ready for anything that may come up, but there has been a significant decrease in fire activity.”

However, as hunting season begins, Turner warns that unattended campfires still pose a danger.

“Unattended campfires are a major thing,” Turner added. “People think it’s getting colder, and that’s a big danger right now, so make sure your campfires are completely out, ashes are cold to the touch and never leave a campfire unattended.

“As far as your area there, there’s still the possibility of fires starting, so we need people to be aware and keep their eyes out and phone in any smoke you see on hillsides.”

It’s been a busy season for the wildfire season in the province, with the largest amount of hectares burned in 30 years—the third worst since the province started keeping records in 1950.

Turner said the the biggest challenge was dividing fire suppression resources between major fires up in northern B.C., while keeping enough personnel and equipment for Southeast Fire Centre activity.

“We had very large wildfires and our biggest challenge here in the Southeast was a lot of our crews were needed to fight those fires up north—a lot of our personnel and support staff were needed for those fires and make sure they were kept under control.

“Of course, there were a lot of communities evacuated up there to protect those communities, so the challenge for us in the Southeast, was to work with the resources we had and make sure we had everything covered here. It didn’t pose any major issues for us, but that was kind of the biggest challenge here, as far as the fire season.”

Provincially, there were 1,424 fires that burned roughly 3,590 square kilometres, according to Kevin Skrepnek, the chief provincial fire information officer.

“When you look at the statistics in terms of the number of fires we’ve had, we’ve had a little over 1,400—1,424—that’s actually below average in terms of the number of fires. So what we saw this year was a below average number of fires, but in terms of the area burned, quite above normal.”

In the Southeast Fire Centre, there was 228 lightning-caused fires and 55 person-caused fires that burned a total of 6,633 hectares. In the Cranbrook area, there were 21 lightning-caused fires and 22 person-caused fires that burned 223 hectares.

Much of the hectares burned in the Cranbrook area was due to prescribed burning to contain a remote fire up in the Tanglefoot region.

“Other than that, mostly through the Cranbrook area, we had quite a lot of small fires that initial attack crews—three-person crews—got on right away and put out while they were still small,” Turner said.

The largest fire in the Southeast centre was the White Complex which included, at it’s peak, seven fires.

“They’re all contained, but it probably will continue till it snows, just because the larger fires are somewhat remote and since there is containment around them, we’re just letting them do their natural thing,” said Turner.

From a provincial standpoint, the largest fire was the Chelaslie River fire near Burns Lake that burned 1,330 square kilometres. It’s still actively burning, but roughly 75 per cent contained.

The worst two fire seasons, in terms of hectares burned, was 1958 when 8,590 square kilometres burned. Three years later, 4,830 square kilometres burned in 1961 which holds the second-worst record.

With files from the Canadian Press