B.C.’s 2021 wildfire season has burned an area of 8,680 square kilometres, third highest on record but only 61 per cent of the all-time high three years ago.
Total area burned in 2018 was 13,542 square kilometres, passing the previous record of 12,160 square kilometres set in 2017. The 2018 total is more than four and a half times the area of Metro Vancouver, compared to three times the size of Metro Vancouver that was burned across the province this past summer.
This year’s wildfire area is more than twice the 10-year average, according to B.C. Wildfire Service statistics up to Sept. 21. More than half of it was in the Kamloops fire district, with the Cariboo and Prince George regions second and third in area affected.
Visiting Logan Lake southwest of Kamloops in late August, B.C. Premier John Horgan praised the community’s 18 years of following the FireSmart fuel management program “before it was invented.” He said three severe forest fire seasons in the past five years have convinced him the provincial government has to shift its budget priorities to do more before summer fires get out of control.
“I’ve seen enough,” Horgan said in a visit to the Logan Lake fire department Aug. 27. “If we have resources at the front end of the year, B.C. Wildfire Service can retain people in the beginning of the year.”
B.C.’s spending on wildfire control passed $500 million by September this year, approaching the 2017 total of $649 million and the 2018 expenditure of $615 million.
Asked on Friday about the situation in the Fraser Canyon community of Lytton, much of which was destroyed by fire in late June, Horgan said experienced people have come out of retirement to help the village staff plan for rebuilding. Horgan said he spoke with a Lytton resident who spent the summer fighting fires near Vernon, after his own home was destroyed.
“And it’s that type of spirit, I believe, that exists in Lytton and will be there as we rebuild the community, to be better than it was before, or at least different than it was before,” Horgan said Sept. 17. “Better prepared for the changing environment that we live in.”