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B.C.’s fire season now second-worst on record

Damage now exceeds 1.22 million hectares of burned land
Members of the Summerland Fire Department received training from the BC Wildfire Service in early June. At present, the wildfire season in British Columbia is the second-worst in the province’s history in terms of land destroyed. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

British Columbia’s 2023 wildfire season is now the second-worst on record — and it’s still far from over.

As of July 13, 1,040 fires have been recorded and more than 1.22 million hectares have been burned, according to statistics from the BC Wildfire Service.

The wildfire season is calculated from April 1 to March 31, each year.

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The bulk of this year’s wildfire activity has been within the Prince George fire centres, covering northeastern B.C. In that region, 346 wildfires have been reported and 1.14 million hectares have been destroyed.

The Kamloops Fire Centre, which includes the Thompson-Okanagan, has had 167 fires and around 3,000 hectares destroyed.

The amount of land burned provincewide so far this year now exceeds the damage from the 2017 wildfire season.

That year saw 1,353 wildfires and more than 1.21 million hectares of land burned, with 65,000 people evacuated. The costs of firefighting in 2017 exceeded $649 million.

A provincial state of emergency that summer lasted from July 7 to Sept. 15. It is the longest provincial state of emergency in B.C.’s history and the first since the fire season of 2003.

The worst fire season in British Columbia’s history was in 2018 when 2,117 fires destroyed 1.34 million hectares.

The province has seen other significant wildfire seasons in recent years.

During the 2021 wildfire season, 1,642 wildfires burned 869,279 hectares. Around one-third of the wildfires and more than half the damage that year was within the Kamloops Fire Centre, where 459 wildfires destroyed 497,497 hectares.

At present, there are 350 active fires burning in British Columbia, with 232 classified as out of control.

Nationwide, wildfires are causing damage in many parts of Canada.

In late June, Canada surpassed the record for area burned by wildfires in a single year.

The amount of land burned as of June 26, was 76,129 square kilometres. This is greater than the previous record for a year, which had been set in 1989.

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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