Wild­fire sea­son worst in six decades: of­fi­cial

Cape Breton Post - - Canada - BY GEORDON OMAND

This year’s wild­fire sea­son has be­come Bri­tish Columbia’s worst in six decades, and a pro­vin­cial spokesman says the ac­tion is far from over.

Kevin Skrep­nek of the BC Wild­fire Ser­vice said that 4,910 square kilo­me­tres of for­est, bush and grass­land have been torched, mak­ing 2017 the sec­ond worst year in recorded his­tory in terms of land de­stroyed.

“I think it’s im­por­tant for ev­ery­one to re­mem­ber we are only in early Au­gust at this point,” Skrep­nek told re­porters dur­ing a daily wild­fire con­fer­ence call. Au­gust is usu­ally one of the busiest months for fire, so this cur­rent sit­u­a­tion could get worse, he added.

B.C.’s most dev­as­tat­ing fire sea­son on record was in 1958, when flames con­sumed about 8,560 square kilo­me­tres, though Skrep­nek said it is too early to tell whether this year could sur­pass that level.

“I don’t want to spec­u­late at this point, given that we do still have all of Au­gust ahead of us and there’s po­ten­tial for ac­tiv­ity out there,” he said.

The prov­ince be­gan track­ing fire statis­tics in 1950.

There were 126 fires burn­ing across B.C. on Thurs­day, eight of them newly sparked Wed­nes­day.

The cost of fire­fight­ing ef­forts has topped $204 mil­lion, which Skrep­nek said is rel­a­tively low com­pared with pre­vi­ous years be­cause of the late start to the 2017 sea­son.

The BC Wild­fire Ser­vice is also reach­ing fur­ther afield for re­in­force­ments, with de­tails still be­ing worked out to bring in fire­fight­ing crews from Aus­tralia and New Zealand, pos­si­bly as early as next week. The Cana­dian Forces an­nounced it would be­gin ro­tat­ing out 200 sol­diers who have been help­ing with fire­fight­ing ef­forts in the In­te­rior.

Maj. Jeff Allen said res­i­dents should not be alarmed if they no­tice an in­crease in mil­i­tary equip­ment mov­ing along high­ways near Wil­liams Lake, where troops are sta­tioned.

Skrep­nek said a fore­casted change in weather is ex­pected to shift wind pat­terns and cut back the smoky haze that has set­tled over much of B.C.’s coast in re­cent days.

It’s been nearly three weeks since B.C. de­clared a provincewide state of emer­gency and tem­pers are be­gin­ning to flare among lo­cals con­cerned for their homes and liveli­hoods.

Greg Ny­man, 52, is a rancher who lives about 80 kilo­me­tres west of Kam­loops. He said he is frus­trated with the wild­fire ser­vice be­cause an­other blaze started after a planned burn back­fired, send­ing em­bers onto a nearby hill­side.

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