The wildfire season will likely extend into the fall due to an expected continuation of extreme weather conditions through July and August.
During a Thursday (July 15) media update on the wildfire situation in the province, B.C. Wildfire Service operations manager Kurtis Isfeld noted this year’s wildfire season began about a month earlier than normal.
This is due to a near-record dry spring — Kamloops was parched as it registered the second-driest meteorological spring (March, April and May) since records began in 1891 — a record heat wave and lots of lightning.
Isfeld said there would normally be 209 fires recorded by mid-July.
As of Thursday, there had been more than 1,100 fires noted, 306 of which remain active, including 27 right now that pose a threat to people and their homes and businesses.
Brendan Ralfs of Emergency Management BC said, as of Thursday, there were 30 evacuation orders and 51 evacuation alerts, — with more than 2,800 properties under orders and in excess of 10,000 properties under alerts.
Go to emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca has updated information on evacuation alerts and orders.
Of the fires sparked this year, 35 per cent are believed to have been connected to human activity — including six blazes in Knutsford, south of Aberdeen, this week, all of which are believed to be the work of an arsonist.
About half (48 per cent) of the fires are linked to lightning, while the causes of the remaining 17 per cent remain under investigation.
Compounding the problems is the fact the B.C. Wildfire Service is finding it hard to secure resources because neighbouring jurisdictions are battling their own blazes as record heat spreads across the continent.
The B.C. Wildfire Services has 2,500 employees and more than 100 crew members from outside of the province.
Because of the pressure in resources, the BC Wildfire Service cannot get to every ignition, Isfeld said, and remains focused on fires that pose danger to life and property.
As for the debate over whether a state of emergency should be called, Ralfs said such a declaration is primarily a legislative tool.
“During this current event, a provincial declaration of a state of emergency has not been necessary to provide assistance to people, to access funding or to co-ordinate or obtain additional resources, including federal assets," Ralfs said.
The Canadian Armed Forces have arrived at Kamloops Airport and are aiding in the wildfire fight.
Ralfs said a state of emergency will be declared if and when required.