The first week of summer has not surprisingly brought with it a growing wildfire threat across the province.
Forests Minister Steve Thomson has confirmed the Wildfire Management Branch has already exhausted about 80 percent of this year’s $63 million fire suppression budget, but adds the province will once again spend whatever is necessary.
“We remind the public to be responsible and safe in the outdoors, but we know the crews are ready, the resources are there as we need them,” Thomson said.
“But, obviously the trend and what we see creates nervous days for us.”
The chair of the province’s independent watchdog for forest practices says many B.C. communities are still at risk of a catastrophic wildfire.
Timothy Ryan is with the Forest Practices Board, and he says both the provincial and local governments need to do more to reduce the fire risk by removing fuel sources through controlled burns, bush removal and tree pruning.
“The government has limited resources, we need to help the government set its priorities and, if this is a priority for us in our communities, we need to make sure we make that phone call or make that visit or talk to government officials to make sure they understand this is a very important issue, and if it’s a very important issue then we require more dollars,” Ryan said.
Last year presented B.C. authorities with a somewhat unique and challenging wildfire season.
Between April and November the branch responded to a below average 1,455 fires, but many of them were classified as large scale, resulting in a burn total of almost 360,000 hectares — the third highest in provincial history.
The Prince George Fire Centre was exceptionally busy with 11 fires listed as notable, including four in the Peace Region, each posting a burn area of over 25,000 hectares.
This year, there are no reported fires yet of that size, but Environment Canada is currently calling for some fire risk weather for this area, predicting a high today of 27 C — which would be less that two degrees off the June 24, 1967 record of 28.9 C — and then record weekend highs of 28 and 30 on Saturday & Sunday.