Fire update: Seven fires of note in B.C., all in northeast

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek says cooler conditions are in the forecast for the Peace Region, but with no rain expected for at least a handful of days, fighting the fires in the region will be challenging.

He told reporters today that hot and dry conditions were present across the province, but a shift to cooler weather will show up.

“Unfortunately, with a change in this weather, we’ve seen a bit of a disturbance to some of the patterns — and that’s lead to continued challenges from wind, particularly in the Peace Region,” Skrepnek noted.

Sustained and gusty winds are expected, and without the rain, it will be a challenge to fight the fires, he said.

85 fires are burning in B.C., with 57 burning in the northeastern corner of the province, and almost all of those within the Peace Region.

Eight new fires have started since yesterday across B.C. So far this season, 203 fires have started since April 1, burning 23,000 hectares of land. Seven fires of note are burning in the province, and all of them are in the Prince George Fire Centre.

A fire of note is a fire that residents are concerned about, as they are more visible and sometimes closer to homes than other fires. The BC Wildfire Service provides information and consistent updates about these fires online.

Skrepnek calls the numbers ‘unusually high,’ saying that in 2015 the Province only saw 93 fires as of this date, burning only 746 hectares.

A ten-year average showed that the average for this date would be 125 fires responded to, and burning 1,168 hectares.

“To put that in perspective, we’re (at) nearly twice the number of fires that we’ve responded to for this time of year,” said Skrepnek. “In terms of hectares, we’re nearly 20 times above average for where we would normally be for this time of year.”

In light of a devastating fire in Fort McMurray that has destroyed 1,600 structures and lead to the evacuation of the entire city, Skrepnek says B.C. will assist them however they can — while B.C. tries to fight fires here.

“In B.C., we know all too well how devastating wildfires can be,” he said, adding that affected residents of the city are in their thoughts today.

Requests for help in fighting fires go through CIFFC, and B.C. has offered the use of airtankers and equipment. A request for a firehouse and pumps came in last night, which Skepnek says is en route today.

Regarding the 9,000-hectare Siphon Creek fire, Skrepnek said that the fire is steadily growing closer to the provincial border. Crews from B.C. will fight that fire even if it spreads into Alberta, he said, to take the burden of resources off of them.

Five evacuation alerts are in effect right now, all in the Peace Region. Ian Lightbody, with Emergency Management BC, says those alerts are for Siphon Creek, Doig River, Clearview, Beatton Airport Road, and Blueberry River. In total, the evacuation alerts affect 325 residences in the area. However, it is not known for sure how many people these alerts affect.

In what he calls a ‘sobering statistic,’ Skrepnek says only four, out of over 200 fires that have started since the beginning of the year, weren’t caused by people.