Even though there have been 156 recorded wildfires in the province up until May 4, the BC Wildfire Service say they expect the 2021 Vancouver Island wildfire season to be average.
“On a 10-year average, the Coastal Fire Centre has about 198 fires per year. Of those 198 fires, 129 of them are human caused, and 69 are lighting caused,” said Donna MacPherson of the Coast Fire Centre.
She went on to tell Ha-Shilth-Sa that she doesn’t have statistics solely for Vancouver Island, however, the Coastal Fire Service has a website that shows historical wildfires up to 2020. https://catalogue.data.gov.bc.ca/dataset/fire-perimeters-historical
MacPherson said that the 2020 wildfire season for Vancouver Island was not as bad as it could have been for a couple of reasons. She noted that while summer 2020 was hot, it was tempered by periods of rain that rehydrated the forests.
“Second, people weren’t moving around like they did in the past,” she added.
In addition, the BC Wildfire Service was more aggressive with fires than in previous years, said MacPherson. They plan to take the same aggressive approach this year.
The 2020 season in British Columbia, according to the BC Wildfire Service, recorded 637 fires burning just over 15,000 hectares of land between April 1 and Oct. 1, 2020.
“Over the past 10 years, on average, 1,356 wildfires have occurred and 347,104 hectares have burned over a full fire season,” they say.
Information from Environment Canada indicates that the southern portion of the province was drier and warmer than normal for the month of April 2021. Parts of Vancouver Island, including Victoria, Nanaimo and Campbell River, all had significantly less precipitation during the month of April. Victoria, for example, normally gets 47.9 millimetres of precipitation in April but only got 19.9 last month.
Campbell River normally gets 92.1 millimetres of precipitation but only recorded 23.2 in April 2021.
MacPherson reported that, so far, the biggest fire on Vancouver Island is under control. It started in a “dead block” in steep terrain near Gold River.
“Since the beginning of February, the southern half of the province has seen significantly drier conditions when compared to the historical average,” stated the BC Wildfire Service.
They are more concerned about the Kelowna, Vernon and Cranbrook regions, which have had less than half of their normal amount of precipitation.
The BC Wildfire Service is preparing for the season by implementing COVID safety precautions for their fire crews. Personnel will not be allowed to camp together and will have their food delivered to them.
“We make sure each crew is self-sufficient for 72 hours and don’t have to rely upon food or hotels for the first few days,” MacPherson said.
There are two wildfires on Vancouver Island that are listed as under control.
A fire near Gold River at Matchlee Bay was discovered April 19, which burned 12 hectares and is suspected to have been caused by a person. A smaller fire near Woss Lake was discovered May 13. It burned .01 ha and is listed as under control.
“Wildfire seasonal activity is increasing and expected to continue given the current forecasts,” says the BC Wildfire Service.
They note that most wildfires have been in open fuel types on south facing slopes.
“As we progress through May, we can expect to see these fires starting to burn into the surrounding timber in the Kamloops, Okanagan and southeastern regions of the province.
For more information about wildfires in British Columbia visit the BC Wildfire Dashboard at https://governmentofbc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/f0ac328d88c74d07aa2ee385abe2a41b