The Chronicle Herald (Provincial)

More than climate change behind B.C. wildfires


With more than 300 active fires and thousands under evacuation orders, B.C. is on the fast track to the most destructiv­e wildfire season in its history.

Although the fires have become an emblem around the world of the destructiv­e effects of climate change, many of the province’s forestry experts are pointing out that while climate change makes fires more likely, it’s poor forestry management that is helping to make them more destructiv­e.

“Even if we were able to turn back the dial on climate change we would still have wildfires that are severe and would burn people’s houses down,” said Jesse Zeman, director of fish and wildlife restoratio­n with the B.C. Wildlife Federation.

“Climate change just makes everything worse.”

Starting in 2017, B.C. started experienci­ng fire seasons that were way off the charts of anything in the province’s recorded history.

Warming temperatur­es have made forests drier and yielded the mild winters that allowed the Mountain Pine Beetle to turn whole forests into highly flammable stands of dead trees. Climate change has also helped drive a spike in the severity of thundersto­rms, with B.C. this summer being hit by 10 times as many lightning strikes as usual.

But all these factors are converging on B.C. forests piled high with what wildfire experts call “fuel load” — the accumulate­d debris, deadwood and untreated clearcut areas that can dramatical­ly accelerate the speed and intensity of a wildfire.

“We’re learning that by protecting our forests we’re really just building a bigger bomb,” said Zeman.

University of British Columbia’s Department of Forest & Conservati­on Sciences sent an open letter to B.C. Premier John Horgan highlighti­ng the need for more prescribed burns to curb fuel load in the province’s forests.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada