Province has budgeted $101 million for wildfire prevention

Ben Ronald / March 19, 2019

BC spent $568 million fighting wildfires in 2017

The province is readying itself for the 2019 wildfire season. This follows the 2017 and 2018 seasons which were two of the worst on record.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development says it will increase wildfire spending by 58% percent in 2019.

The announcement comes in a week where dozens of temperature records have been broken all over BC.

According to Bobby Sekhon, Meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, British Columbians shouldn’t expect any cold spells for the next couple of weeks. And that trend could continue into the spring.

“We’re expecting a warmer than normal spring. How much warmer? We don’t know. But there is some indication that April and May will be warmer than normal” – Bobby Sekhon, Meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

A warm spring doesn’t necessarily lead to a severe summer fire season, and a cool one doesn’t mean wildfires won’t be an issue.

In 2017, the spring wildfire season was “unusually quiet” according to the Government of BC website, despite temperatures in April and May being at or near normal.

However, 2017 quickly became one of the worst seasons on record with over 1.2 million hectares of land destroyed.

This preceded the 2018 season where over 1.3 million hectares of land were burned, costing the province in excess of $400 million in fire suppression efforts.

“We’ve taken a hard look at additional steps we can take to not only prevent wildfires, but also enhance our response on the ground during wildfire season.” – Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

While Environment Canada can’t make any specific predictions for this summer, it does expect a changing climate to impact weather patterns in BC and across the country.

“We can expect more extremes in terms of weather conditions and weather patterns. Things like dry warm ridges of pressure in the summer could be a more common occurrence than in the past,” said Bobby Sekhon.

Sekhon added that this past winter in BC was actually cooler than average. Though this was skewed by a very cold February, which outweighed a warmer than normal December and January.