FILE – Crews with the Saanich Fire Department battle grassfire near Uptown. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Unusually dry March leads to dozens of grass fires in B.C.

Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek says many not careful this time of year

An unseasonably dry March has led to more than 20 recent grass fires across B.C., with nearly all caused by people.

This spring is shaping up to be quite different from the previous year, when flooding and heavy snow packs brought wet conditions well into May.

RELATED: Seven small wildfires burning in B.C. as warm weather brings dry conditions

RELATED: Unseasonable heat melts heavy snowpacks in B.C., making more floods likely

B.C.’s chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek told Black Press Media grass fires are not uncommon this time of year, but it is around the same officials start to see a growing number of human-caused fires.

“The risk isn’t a top of mind for people, given that we aren’t in that core summer period,” he said in a phone interview from the service’s Kamloops headquarters Tuesday.

Crews were deployed to two sizable fires in recent days, the first burning more than 250 hectares in Kamloops and the second still burning at roughly 15 hectares northeast of Squamish.

Roughly 40 per cent of all wildfires in B.C. are human-caused, with most the rest caused by summer lightning strikes. But those storms don’t usually happen until June.

“Every fire we see this time of year is preventable one way or another,” Skrepnek said.

Most of the time, it’s open burning that gets out of control.

“When they are burning, they are quite aggressive, they can grow quite quickly. Then generally as we get a hold on them, they don’t smoulder for too long because it was burning up those fine fuels as opposed to an actual forest fire where big trees are burning.”

Wildfire official hopeful for a rainy May

Skrepnek said B.C.’s wildfire season is broken up into two portions: between now and mid-May, when the grass begins to dry after the remnants of winter melt away, and then from the Canada Day long weekend until about September.

In between, the amount of rain we get can determine how aggressive the sparks will be during summer.

READ MORE: Fire officials warn of ‘overwintering’ fires as winter melts away

In the meantime, crews have begun prescribed burning in vulnerable regions. Controlled burns aim to prevent forest fires by burning through top layers of fuel, as well as help restore ecosystems that have adapted to seasonal infernos. They can also be part of First Nation cultural practices.

A lot of preparation goes into prescribed burns, Skrepnek said. “If we’re putting fire out on the landscape, we have to make sure we put contingencies in place, we don’t want it to turn into a wildfire, and we have to wait for the right conditions.”

Discarded cigarettes, campfires, ATVs all run the risk of sparking a fire

Skrepnek urged caution to outdoor enthusiasts and others who may forget grass fires can happen outside the summer season.

Discarded cigarettes and campfires left burning are two common causes, but heat from the exhaust pipe of an ATV or off-road vehicle can be all it takes for long grass to catch.

“You only have to look back to the last few summers to see how bad things can get.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No new COVID cases in Kootenay-Boundary

Interior Health says as of July 30, there were no additional cases in the previous two weeks

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

RDKB to spend $5,000 to review 2020 freshet response

The province is also kicking in $5,000 for the review of flood protection rollout and communications

Future Olympian returns home to Boundary train in childhood pool

James Dergousoff put on a wetsuit and began swimming in an icy Christina Lake when his pool closed

FortisBC sees record-high summer electricity usage in Okanagan and Kootenays

‘As temperatures spike, so does the demand for electricity’ - FortisBC

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Canucks tame Minnesota Wild 4-3 to even NHL qualifying series

J.T. Miller leads Vancouver with goal and an assist

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world

Interior Health reports nine new cases of COVID-19, 149 linked to Kelowna

Nine new cases were reported in the Interior Health region over the long weekend’s four reporting periods

Two people die in propane heated outdoor shower near Princeton

Couple was attending a long weekend gathering

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

Feds fund $2M for habitat conservation in the Kootenays

Kootenay Connect program to protect habitat for species at risk in four areas in the region

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

Most Read