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

Chiefs honour Tsilhqot’in leader wrongfully hanged in B.C. 154 years ago today

Chief Joe Alphonse says they want his remains returned to his homeland in B.C.’s Cariboo region

RCMP put down two dogs after woman attacked

The woman suffered serious injuries to her left arm, which include a broken left lower arm.

St. Timothy’s Church celebrates fully renovated kitchen with collaborative yard sale

The yard sale will be followed by an official ribbon-cutting ceremony

Hot July Nights shifts into gear for the local economy

One of the biggest events in the South Cariboo rolled through town… Continue reading

South Cariboo senior living residence announces expansion due to high demand

Carefree Manor suspects the expansion to be finished later in 2020.

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

Justin Trudeau’s carbon footprint revealed in ranking of world leaders

Travel company ranks 15 world leaders’ foreign flight CO2 emissions

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Most Read