(BC Wildfire Service/Twitter)

2017 second-worst B.C. wildfire season on record

BC Wildfire has spent $204 million fighting 491,000 hectares of fires

The 2017 wildfire season is now the second worst in B.C. since records began, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

Since April 1, 491,000 hectares have burned across the province, sending this season over the 483,000 hectares burned in 1961. Only 1958 was even worse – 855,000 hectares burned that year.

As of Thursday afternoon, 126 fires were currently burning in B.C. Eight of those started on Wednesday, for a total of 861 fires in B.C. since April 1.

Firefighting efforts have cost the province $204 million to date.

Emergency Management BC executive director Chris Duffy said that 6,700 people remain under evacuation orders, while 24,800 are under evacuation alerts.

Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek called the past month “unprecedented” in terms of new fires, aggressive fire behaviour and hot conditions. In early July, the province saw more than 200 fires start in about 48 hours.

“We are only in early August at this point so this season is far from over,” said Skrepnek. “August is unfortunately typically one of our busiest months. This current situation could get worse before it gets better.”

RELATED: B.C. wildfire crews prepare for scorching August

The forecast still isn’t looking good, he said. Hot, dry and slightly windy conditions are expected to continue for the Cariboo and the southern parts of the province.

“Temperatures are expected to ease a little bit after today, but it’s still in the mid-30s for many parts of B.C.” he said.

More on controlled burn that went out of control

Skrepnek continued to take questions from reporters on his daily update about a controlled burn near 20 Mile Ranch and Clinton, near Cache Creek, going “horribly wrong,” as one resident put it.

He said controlled burns remain the best way to fight large, aggressive fires.

VIDEO: Clinton-area residents say controlled burn went ‘horribly wrong’

“This was an unfortunate turn of the weather,” said Skrepnek. “The fact that this happened is a bit of an aberration.”

He said acknowledged the back burn, which caused the fire to jump west over Hwy. 97, has increased the size of that fire.

“To be frank, this is an active fire,” he said. “If we hadn’t taken action, it likely would have gone into this area regardless.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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