Fire season kicks off early in 2024 ahead of April 1st start


Fire Smart BC has already updated its videos targeting homeowners to start preparations for what could be a long, hot, and fiery summer.

“Really the whole process is about teaching people to look through the lens of a wildfire mitigation specialist so that they understand the nature of fire, how it plays out on the property, empower them to take action,” explained Scott Rogers, a fire mitigation specialist.

The official start to the fire season doesn’t start until April 1. But Julia Caranci, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre, says there was already a suspected human-caused fire near Port Alberni earlier this month.

“It was reported to us the morning of March 18th. We did send a four-person initial attack crew. They actioned the fire, and they were able to call it out by 1:30 the same afternoon,” Caranci said from Parksville.

It’s not unusual to have wildfires early in the year, but this is expected to be another potentially record year.

There are more than 90-holdover fires burning in central and northern B.C., and 2023 wildfires were more than double the size of the previous year, according to Dr. Lori Daniels, director of the UBC Tree Ring Lab.

“We’re already on some fire restrictions.  I’m a little worried that if we don’t get the spring rains, we’re in for a hot, dry and high fire danger summer,” Daniels said.

The key for 2024 is preparation.

Vancouver Island’s snowpack is far below average, sitting at 44-percent of normal at the beginning of March.

Experts say the one thing needed is rain.

“As it warms up, and the snow melts, it will begin to dry out our eco-systems. And so if we don’t get spring rain, fingers crossed for lots of spring rain, to replenish the moisture into our forests because they are already pretty dry, this multi-year drought is having its toll,” Daniels said.

But the climate is changing, along with the forests, and that means adapting to the changes.

Dr. Steve Taylor, a research scientist at the Pacific Forestry Centre, said over the next decade British Columbia should be prepared to see fire years that are similar to the last 10 years.

“We have to have that kind of shift in our perception, that we’re living in a changed environment, [a] fire environment. It’s not all doom and gloom, we can prepare for that,” Taylor said. “It really begins with having that realization that it’s a changed environment.”

With sunny skies in the forecast, and no rain in sight, it may be the start of a long, dry season.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!