Extreme drought leads to almost double the number of wildfires on Vancouver Island

Extreme drought leads to almost double the number of wildfires on Vancouver Island
WatchIt's been 4 weeks since we've had rain on the South Island and the drought and wildfire situation is dire. Tess van Straaten reports.

It’s dry — really dry —and we haven’t even hit what’s normally the summer drought period on Vancouver Island.

“We usually expect dry conditions in summer but not as early as they started this year,” says Environment Canada meteorologist Bobby Sekhon. “Seeing such dry conditions in June and early July is unusual for sure because it’s not usually until later July and into August that we have our driest period.”

Greater Victoria and most of eastern Vancouver Island is now at drought Level 4 — that’s higher than the Okanagan — and adverse impacts on fish are now very likely here and in most of Southwestern B.C.

“Having the dry period so early in the season is concerning,” Sekhon says. “All of Southern B.C. could use rain right now.”

The South Island hasn’t had any rain at all in four weeks (since June 15th) and in the last four-and-a-half months, only 86.9 mm has fallen at the Victoria Airport. That’s less than half of the more than 200 mm we would normally get.

The tinder-dry conditions mean all of Vancouver Island is facing a high or extreme wildfire risk and we’ve already had almost double the number of fires.

“In an average year, we would probably expect about 65 starts by this point,” says Gordon Robinson of the Coastal Fire Centre. “This year we’re at 112 as of today.”

Province-wide, the wildfire situation is dire. There have been at least 990 fires in B.C. so far this year.

More than 300 of those are active and we’ve had 40 new fires in just the last two days.

Sadly, most of the fires on Vancouver Island have been human-caused.

“With conditions like this, it’s possible for things to get a lot worse so I really want to stress that every human-caused fire is preventable and we can’t afford to have any more avoidable fires the way things are going in the rest of the province,” Robinson cautions.

People are being urged to use extreme caution anytime they’re outdoors.

A province-wide fire ban is in place but sparks from a vehicle or even a fuel-fired appliance could ignite a blaze.

“BBQ’s and generators, chainsaws, lawn mowers —these are things that can start wildfires very quickly and we should be aware of them,” says Dep. Chief Dan Wood of the Saanich Fire Department.

If you see a fire, call 911 or 1-800-663-5555 (*5555 on a cell phone) to report it right away before it can spread.

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MORE: Urban parks in Victoria at extreme fire risk during hot, dry weather

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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