There is reason for optimism in regards to fire season as it relates to the West Kootenay region this August, according to the BC Wildfire Service.
With previous years’ summer slam events in August hitting the canvas with a one-two combination of drought and heat, resulting in a knockout punch of prolific wildfires and smoke, this year an air of uncertainty — with a cooler, wetter spring delaying the fire season — has settled in on the West Kootenay wildfire season landscape.
Neal McLoughlin, superintendent of predictive services for the BC Wildfire Service, said the outlook for precipitation in August was low, despite the Thursday night rain event that doused several parts of the West Kootenay.
“There is generally low confidence in the long-range precipitation forecast, so we don’t hang our hat on that forecast as much,” he said in a province-wide message recently.
With expected fires per week ranging from 50 to over 700 per week according to historical data for August, McLoughlin said it makes it very difficult to predict what will happen per week in August.
“We were expecting an increase in fire activity heading into August and that is what we have seen,” he said, with one of the seven current provincial “fires of note” burning in the West Kootenay’s Southeast Fire Centre (Briggs Creek).
A wildfire of note is one that is especially visible or poses a threat to public safety.
Despite that, the West Kootenay is well below normal for the number of fires. Around 20 per cent of average for area burned for this year at this time, significantly less than last year.
There are less than 100 active wildfires burning across the province currently, with a total of 528 wildfires burning a total of 22,000 hectares in B.C. — well below the 20-year average of 113,976 hectares.
Wildfire development permit area project
The regional district is moving ahead with wildfire protection planning.
Regional District of Central Kootenay staff are slated to work with Urban Systems, a consulting firm focused on building safe and sustainable communities, to craft a template of guidelines for electoral areas to mitigate and protect their communities from wildfire.
“The establishment of a wildfire development permit area in wildfire interface areas is considered a high priority by the RDCK’s Community Wildfire Protection Plans,” read a release from the RDCK.
The project will utilize the local government’s regulatory authority to require new development to be designed in such a way that minimizes the risks associated with wildfire and builds natural hazard and climate change resilience within the RDCK.
The project will include a public engagement strategy to build awareness, complement other FireSmart public education initiatives and allow people to provide feedback.