A 16-person incident management team of firefighters from across B.C. is travelling to Alberta to help mitigate several wildfires plaguing that province.
On Saturday, the Alberta government declared a state of emergency as more than 100 wildfires burned — with about 33 considered out of control.
The BC Wildfire Service says the team from B.C. will arrive in Hinton, Alta., Sunday night and plan to stay for about two weeks.
“Additionally, we have five structure fire protection units, four structure protection crews and one structure protection specialist heading to Alberta to support them over the weekend,” said Karley Desrosiers, a fire information officer.
Desrosiers says the situation in Alberta is intense and adds that it’s important to aid other provinces because they helped B.C. during previous dangerous wildfire summers.
“When we are able to return that favour, we absolutely do whatever we can to help them,” she explained. “We are happy to send resources to help out.”
Current B.C. wildfire situation
While the wildfire situation in B.C. isn’t as intense as in Alberta, wildfire season has started early.
According to the BC Wildfire Service website, by Sunday afternoon, there were 63 active wildfires across the province, two of which were out of control near Boundary Lake and Red Creek.
Both of these fires are considered human-caused, but Desrosiers says the weather over the last year hasn’t helped the situation.
The province experienced a hot, dry summer in 2022, which continued well into October. This dried up fire fuels, and when the temperatures started to cool down, those fuels froze quickly, according to Desrosiers.
“It didn’t allow for the moisture and precipitation we got in early November to really permeate those fuels. So we did go into the fall and winter in drought conditions, and those persisted into the winter, which is definitely contributing to this,” she explained.
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Looking ahead to this summer, Desrosiers says the lack of moisture in the ground and other fuels like trees and bushes could create a bad wildfire season. She says the weather over the next few months is very important for predicting how bad the fires will be over the summer.
Environment Canada’s long-range forecast for May, June and July predicts near-normal precipitation amounts for Vancouver Island.
“However, we are looking at temperatures above normal, so that could have an impact on fire danger,” Environment Canada Meteorologist Lois Kohanyi told CHEK News.
Desrosiers says while that forecast may sound good to residents, it’s not the greatest for fire mitigation.
“We need long, frequent rain events to really mitigate that drought,” she said.
The BC Wildfire Service will have a better outlook on summer conditions in the coming months.
In the meantime, the service is suggesting residents come up with an emergency plan in case they face a wildfire or evacuation situation. Families are also asked to check all fire restrictions and bans in their area before lighting a match.
Anyone who sees something that looks like a wildfire is asked to report it by calling *5555 on their cell phones or by using the BC Wildfire Service app.