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.

Just Posted

‘The Fonz’ gives thumbs up in letter to dyslexic students at Maple Ridge school

Students at James Cameron School reached out to Henry Winkler after reading one his Zipster books.

Scorpion, first brought to Maple Ridge vet, gives birth after hitching ride in woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought it home from trip to Cuba

Maple Ridge man faces deportation over father’s honour-killing conviction

Father lied to immigration, was later acquitted of charges in Jassi Sidhu’s murder

LETTER: The good and bad at Ridge Meadows Hospital

‘I drove to the hospital and paid $6.50 for parking.’

UPDATE: Police incident at west Maple Ridge mall

Save-On-Foods closed due to threat, police say

Scorpion, first brought to Maple Ridge vet, gives birth after hitching ride in woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought it home from trip to Cuba

B.C. imposes interim moratorium on resource development to protect caribou

The caribou population in northeastern B.C. has dwindled over the last two decades

B.C. sculptor depicts epic eagle battle in latest piece that took 2,500 hours

Clasped in one of the raptor’s talons is each one’s desire: a living venomous diamondback rattlesnake

Students disciplined after anti-LGBTQ signs posted in Kamloops high school

Vessy Mochikas, SD73’s principal for inclusive education, called incident a learning opportunity

Air Canada expects Boeing 737 Max to resume flying by September or October

Air Canada isn’t worried about safety of the planes, says vice-president

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Commercial fishers in B.C. now required to wear life-jackets on deck: WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC reports 24 work-related deaths in the commercial fishing industry between 2007 and 2018

Rossland boy finds human kindness sweet as honey after beehive destroyed

Family overwhelmed by kind offerings of strangers all across B.C.

Most Read