The BC Wildfire Service has responded to 45 new wildfires in northeast British Columbia over a two-day period, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said on Tuesday.
Early Wildfire Season 2016: Canada and US
The ministry said in a statement on Tuesday evening that the BC Wilfire Service has responded to 45 new wildfires in the Prince George Fire Centre since the morning of April 18. Many of these fires are burning in the Peace region, where 14 res are currently estimated to be over 100 hectares in size, the statement said.
The new wildfires occurred just days after the ministry said on April 15 that BC Wildfire Service crews had responded to 59 wildfires in the province since April 12, including 12 in the Prince George Fire Centre. Almost all of the wildfires were human-caused, the ministry said at the time.
Currently, there are six fires of note in the Prince George Fire Centre. Four evacuation alerts or evacuation orders have been put in place by the Peace River Regional District and the District of Hudson’s Hope.
The US Forest Service’s task of putting out the nation’s major forest fires has grown exponentially as fires have increased in both size and number, according to the Christian Science Monitor Thursday. Unable to persuade Congress to increase its budget accordingly, forest officials are instead scheduling their preventative efforts earlier on the calendar.
Forest officials are beginning their forest re preparations early this year to try and head off what they fear will be a bad re season due to drought and chronically overgrown forests.
This wildfire season is fuelled by a combination of bad droughts, climate-inducted dangers such as the pine bark beetle that has devastated Western forests, and almost a century of forest management practices that left too much flammable brush in the forest [due to underuntilized public forests in Canada and the US — ed].
The truly gigantic forest fires that devastate millions of acres and drain the US Forest Service budget occur in the Western United States, but several early-season fires in the Eastern coastal states serve as a reminder of the problem’s national scope. Fires blazed along each side of North Carolina on Wednesday, with one burning 14,000 acres and forcing the closure of a 30-mile stretch of US 264, Associated Press reported.
As far north as New Jersey, a 100-acre re required an early firefighting deployment, the Press of Atlantic City reported Wednesday.
Due to the unseasonably warm and dry conditions and the current level of fire activity, the Prince George Fire Centre in British Columbia is also prohibiting all open fires larger than a camp fire (a half-metre wide by a half-metre high, or smaller) as of noon local time on Wednesday, said Canadian Underwriter.
Prescribed burning refers to the practice of intentionally starting res to renew vegetation and burn off dangerously dry or damaged areas. This early start to the wild fire season in BC is a sign the province is not doing enough to prevent these res.
“We need to be finding some way to increase the pace and scale of prescribed burning,” said Robert Gray, a re ecologist who took part in an inquiry after the Okanagan wild res of 2003, to CBC Wednesday.
“We should be doing tens of thousands of hectares in the spring and fall versus thousands of hectares,” he said. Said BC’s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, Steve Thomson, to CBC, “We are prepared. We have more than 1,400 firefighters and support staff who are available for the 2016 season.”
He added the province can call on contractors and contingency resources if needed. The province recently announced it will provide $85 million for a new wild fire risk reduction project.
“The average cost per hectare around communities is anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 per hectare, that is just not sustainable.”
Gray wants to see more incentives for investing in bio– energy — turning wood waste into heat and electricity.
“Won’t save money over night, but 10-to-20 years down the road, we will see big fires costing less money,” he said to CBC.