Large structure loss highlights 2015 fire season

By Chad Klassen
October 8, 2015 - 6:26pm

The fire season is officially over, but the B.C. Wildfire Service says 2015 was among the top ten fire seasons of all-time, with more than three times the average area burned.

    There were over 300,000 hectares that burned this summer in B.C. It falls just short of last year's totals, but is well above the 10-year average. 

    Fire crews got an early start to the season this year, with dry conditions beginning in early spring. Not long into May, they were battling multiple fires in Northern B.C., namely the Little Bobtail Lake fire --- a blaze that reached over 24,000 hectares at its peak.

    The Prince George Fire Centre burned 213,055 of the 304,867 hectares torched this year in b-c.

"A lot of the hectares [burned] were actually in Northern B.C., large fires that weren't necessarily posing immediate threats to communities," says Kevin Skrepnek, B.C.'s chief fire information officer. "Southern B.C., we saw smaller fires." 

    The big story this season was the number of structures lost as a result of the 1,826 burned. In all, over 50 structures were destroyed, the second highest total, only behind the infamous 2003 fire season. 

    In Rock Creek alone, there were 30 homes that burned down. 

"In terms of structures lost, this was a pretty significant season, certainly our worst since 2003," says Skrepnek. "Major incidents in Rock Creek and around Oliver and up in Puntzi Lake in the Cariboo saw homes lost unfortunately."

    While many areas around the province were burning this summer, Kamloops dodged a bullet without a major fire this season. The B.C. Wildfire Service says there were a few spot fires in the Kamloops area, but not any that were threatening.

"In a lot of cases, there may not be a whole lot of rhyme or reason to it, especially when we're talking about lightning-caused fires," he says. "In the immediate Kamloops area, we didn't see a whole lot of large fires, a lot of interface fires. But nearby, Ashcroft did have some pretty major incidents."

    Kamloops got lucky this year, but the B.C. Wildfire Service will work this offseason to ensure an encore next summer. 

"Fuel management projects, where we'll go in and remove fuel from areas, treed areas, where there's a lot of build-up of fuel," notes Skrepnek. "So if a fire does move through that area, it's going to burn less intensely."

The B.C. Wildfire Service says it's also up to homeowners, who can keep their lawns moist and clear dry fuels from their gutters.

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