This summer’s wildfire season will go down as one of the most destructive on record in B.C.
As of Thursday, fires had burned up more than 330,000 hectares across the province and are expected to soon surpass the 337,000 hectares destroyed in the 2010 fire season.
This year is still far short of 1958, when 856,000 hectares burned, but 2014 could move into fifth place if it surpasses 1950’s 343,339 hectares, or even third if it tops the 351,000 lost in 1971.
While much timber has burned, no homes or other significant structures have been lost this year, so by that measure it’s been nowhere near as catastrophic as the 2003 fire season, when more than 300 homes were lost or damaged in the Okanagan Mountain and McClure fires.
But it has been costly.
The province has so far spent more than $246 million fighting wildfires, almost four times what was budgeted, and more than the $212 million expended in 2010.
Despite wet weather on the Labour Day weekend, fire officials are bracing for more warm dry spells in September.
“It’s unlikely we’ve seen the end of the fire season by any stretch of the imagination,” fire information officer Dustin Eno said.
The actual number of fires this year – just over 1,300 – is well below the average of 1,600 a year.
But many of the fires have been very large.
The biggest, and still only 20 per cent contained, is the 130,000-hectare Chelaslie River fire, which is between Anahim Lake and Burns Lake, near Entiako and Tweedsmuir provincial parks. Homes remain under evacuation order there.
The largest evacuations this summer have included the China Nose fire near Houston and the McAllister fire, which forced the evacuation of the entire town of Hudson’s Hope in July.
Assisting B.C. crews have been large numbers of imported firefighters and equipment, from other provinces, Alaska and Australia.
“We’ve brought in a lot and have been very grateful to be able to draw on those relationships, both right across Canada and internationally,” Eno said.
“Last year we exported a lot of firefighters to fight in other jurisdictions and this year they were able to return that favour.”
There are still 152 active fires and another 85 out-of-province firefighters arrived Thursday from Ontario so B.C. crews could take mandatory days off.