Despite a small outbreak of wildfires on Vancouver Island this week, the number of fires is down this season compared to average.
“We have had warmer temperatures than average all summer but we’ve also had intermittent breaks with rain and cloudy days that have helped keep the relative humidity high and the fire risk lower than it could be,” Costal Fire Centre Fire Information Officer Dorthe Jakobsen said.
That appears to be just the right recipe to keep the number of fires down but it might be surprising because the early season long-range forecast called for a hotter and drier summer than average.
This led many people to fear that the island would see a repeat of last summer’s large outbreak of wildfires.
Instead, the Coastal Fire Centre area has had just 128 fires to date, compared to a 10 year average of 189 fires and well short of the 265 fires that burned to Aug. 20 last summer.
It’s a welcomed relief to local fire departments as well. Comox Fire has sent members across the island and BC to help battle the flames the last two years.
“Based on the last two busy summers and the early spring with the drought in May and the lack of precipitation we were expecting a very, very busy summer here,” said Comox Fire Chief Gord Schreiner. “We trained up additional staff to make sure we were ready to go.”
The lack of fires is good for tourism because some visitors to the island this summer were concerned their views might be dimmed by smoke like they were last summer.
“We were a little bit worried about travelling the island just because of the smoke. But it’s been clear, it’s been beautiful and we’ve travelled the entire island and haven’t seen a single fire,” said Scott Paterson who is visiting from Ontario.
Fire officials still warn people not to become too complacent. After some rain Wednesday, temperatures are expected to heat up again into next week.