‘Starting to dry out’: Slow start to Island wildfire season not guaranteed to stay

'Starting to dry out': Slow start to Island wildfire season not guaranteed to stay

While it has been a slower start to the wildfire season on Vancouver Island, fire crews are keeping an eye on the forests as hotter weather is on the way.

Gordon Robinson, Coastal Fire Centre information officer, said June’s wetter and cooler weather has decreased the season’s overall severity.

He said that is likely going to change as more seasonal summer conditions approach.

“We have had a few warm, dry days lately that are kind of starting to shift the fire danger rating up a little but,” Robinson explained. “But overall it’s been a slower start.”

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According to Robinson, those few warmer dry days have already had an impact on the fire danger rating.

“We’ve had three fires since Thursday on Vancouver Island,” he said. “We’ve had 12 so far this year, so you can see by that kind of uptick in starts that things are starting to dry out, and we are getting into summer.”

On Thursday, fire crews responded to two wildfires near Port Alberni, one being a .75-hectare blaze in the gully at Rogers Creek.

READ MORE: Firefighters get wildfire under control in Port Alberni

On the same day, crews in the mid-island region responded to a small fire just west of Duncan.

The Coastal Fire Centre said all three fires were brought under control and considered human-caused.

This has some local fire departments concerned the slow start to the wildfire season may be making some people complacent.

“It could just lull people into a sense of safety, but it’s always a risk,” Deputy Chief Trevor Stubbings with Saanich Fire said. “I think it’s important to make sure that we’re following all the precautions that we would normally.”

Robinson said the finer fuels, like grass and leaf litter, are quickly drying and becoming more susceptible to fire starts.

“So even though there is still a fair bit of moisture, those things that are like kindling to wildfires are starting to dry out now,” he explained.

In the Greater Victoria Region, Stubbings said the big worry for local fire departments are interface wildfires, or fires that start in the wild and transfer into urban areas.

This type of fire hasn’t happened in the region since a fire broke out at Mill Hill Regional Park in 2020, but Stubbings told CHEK News it’s something the fire department is constantly concerned about and training for.

He said there are a few things residents can do to reduce the risk and fire-smart their homes.

“Pruning your trees and shrubs, removing any dead material, leaves and that sort of stuff and keeping firewood away from your structure,” Stubbings explained.

Robinson said residents should also obey all campfire and backyard burning restrictions that may be in place.

They hope this will help reduce the complacency around wildfires this summer.

The 2023 wildfire season was the most damaging in B.C.’s history, with over 2.84 million hectares burned across the province.

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