‘The island isn’t immune to wildfires’: 2019 may be intense wildfire season, says View Royal fire chief

'The island isn't immune to wildfires': 2019 may be intense wildfire season, says View Royal fire chief

WATCH: 2019 could be another devastating year for wildfires across BC. Island firefighters who have battled blazes in the Interior say they are worried that the destruction could happen a lot closer to home. Aaron Guillen reports.  

It’s only early May, and the wildfire season has already begun in BC.

And local firefighters are getting ready.

“I know View Royal is prepared and our West Shore neighbours too,” says Paul Hurst, fire chief for the town of View Royal.

“I don’t know if the entire province is prepared.”

In past two years, firefighters from View Royal, Saanich, and Sooke have been sent to fight wildfires to the Interior.

Last year, Hurst was there for 31 days.

This year, he’s worried about wildfires closer to home.

“I don’t think the Island is immune to wildfires as well,” says Hurst.

“We don’t usually get the big fires here on Vancouver Island, but we did have a disproportionate number of fires here on the Island and that’s concerning as well.”

This time last May, there were only three wildfires across the province.

Currently, there are 16 active fires including two on the Island.

One in Sooke Hills and one just spotted Thursday morning on Mount Sicker in the Cowichan Valley.

This year’s early start to the fire season is being fanned by record-breaking temperatures.

“So far it’s been dry and warm,” says Bobby Sekhon, meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“That trend continues under this ridge of high pressure when we’re getting in record values for temperatures for Vancouver Island.”

The BC Wildfire Service says with rapidly drying forests, everyone has to be careful.

“A human caused fire is avoidable,” says Dorothy Jakobsen, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre.

“It’s warm and it’s dry, so a fire could get away from you very easily.”

The 2018 wildfire season was the second worst to date, with nearly 13,500 square kilo-meters of scorched land.

Island firefighters who have battled the biggest blazes say the danger wildfires pose can’t be underestimated.

“These fires are massive,” says Hurst.

“These fires, once they get going, there’s no stopping them.”

Currently, there aren’t any fire bans along the coastal area, but the BC Wildfire Service says open fires, campfires, and forest use fires will be restricted if the temperature continues to climb.

Aaron GuillenAaron Guillen

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