Forest fires are not new here in the West Coast of Canada but with low snow levels and light spring rains this year and a dry summer to follow there is an expected abnormal high risk for forest fires in B.C. this summer. Growing up in Australia with very hot, dry summers there is an awareness of bush and grass fires always present. Australia's most disastrous fire tragedy was in my home state of Victoria - Black Saturday in 2009 with the tragic loss of many lives and hundreds injured as well as loss of property and lives changed forever.
Forest Fire Environment
In May and June while travelling through the Interior of B.C, it was obvious the forests are very dry and there are many dead trees killed by the Mountain Pine beetle epidemic and spruce beetle providing highly flammable tinder to feed forest fires. With this combination of factors even though creeks are flowing fast with snow run off, because the snow packs on the mountains are unusually low some areas are much drier than others.
Early in May, an out of control fire in northern BC at Bobtail Lake burned over 25,569.0 hectares, requiring the evacuation of 80 people, fortunately with no loss of life. At the time of writing there is a forest fire burning at Lytton, B.C. and a more recent grass fire in Saanich, B.C. is now under control. This is very early in the season to have this many major fires in the past month.
In case of a Forest Fire
What you need to know before heading out on vacation or to the summer cottage:
- It is extremely important if you live in a high risk area to have an evacuation plan in case of a fire
- Summer vacationers be ready to leave your cottage at any time - plan a central meeting point and map out an escape route with your family
- Advise family, friends or local RCMPolice if you are backpacking in an unpopulated area
- Locate the closest medical clinic or hospital in your area
- Landscaping around your home - it is recommended that home owners do not store combustible items in and around your home and garage and clear underbrush of dry high grass and dead trees
- Have working hoses and water supply available
- Check with local fire authorities - here is B.C. Wildfire emergency information including fire danger ratings
- See links for ideas for Emergency Kits
Forest fires & Climate Change
Climate change with hotter & drier summers, high beetle kill tree debris, low snow pack this past winter all heighten the potential of a very high fire risk. People who live in isolated or country areas should be ready to leave as temperatures are already unseasonably high throughout the province.
Be mindful and informed of local area forest fires and be ready to evacuate you and your family early and quickly. Keep up-to-date with fires and conditions by following B.C. Forest Fire information on Facebook.
Be aware and stay safe
- To report a wildfire in British Columbia call 1-800-663-555 or *5555 from a cell phone
- To phone RCMPolice emergency only call 9 - 1 - 1
Links and references:
- National Fire Center Predictive Services potential fire outlook for Summer 2015
- All current wildfires in B.C.
- Fire Prohibitions and Area Restrictions
- Canadian Wildland Fire Report
- Check air quality especially if fires are near where you live
- Livestock, wildlife & habitat impacted by fires
- There are many ways to fight forest fires including aerial firefighting
- Climate change and fires
- We can expect more wildfires in Western Canada & USA
- B.C. Wildfire contact information
- B.C. Emergency information and preparedness
- CFA, Victoria, Australia fire emergency kit & information
- Bushfire Survival Kit from South Australia Country Fire Service
- "Black Saturday's Tragedy - Australia's Worse Natural Disaster Ever" published by Glenvale School, Lilydale, 2009
- "Fire Wise, Fire-safe How to survive a Bushfire" by Richard Whitaker, 2004, New Holland Publishers Australia