“Unprecedented” fire season burning an area twice as large as greater Vancouver

Image via Jonathon Brown.

The area burned by wildfires this summer has taken up an area larger than greater Vancouver, twice over.

That from BC’s Chief Fire Information Officer, who includes the Fraser Valley, North Shore, Maple Ridge, and Aldergrove to the relative area covered.

Image via Jonathon Brown.

“This has also been an unprecedented season, for a vast majority of reasons,” Kevin Skrepnek says, noting that we’re seeing¬†the second highest number of hectares burned in the province since 1950. With wind and lightning in the weekend forecast, officials are afraid it will only get worse.

The air quality advisory remains in effect for Metro Vancouver this weekend.


Forecast good news for the lower mainland, little relief elsewhere.

Skrepnek says the forecast calls for hot and smoky conditions this afternoon and evening, including the lower mainland. This should persist tomorrow, which he calls the day they’re most concerned about. Even though we can expect rain on the coast, the interior can expect wind and lighting, while the showers will be quite isolated.

The showers should reach father inland by Sunday, bringing with it lightning and wind, followed by gusty winds and cooler temperatures on Monday with more isolated showers.

“Beyond Monday, that’s anyone’s guess,” Skrepnek continues, defining the forecast as not exactly returning to these hot and dry conditions, but not any real rainfall, either.

By the numbers, as of August 11th:

  • 143 fires are burning across the province as of Friday afternoon.
  • 11 new fires were sparked on Thursday alone. 966 fires have burned in total since April 1st.
  • 646,000 hectares burned.
  • $270 million has been spent fighting fires this fire season.
  • Over 37,000 personnel are fighting those fires.
  • 650 of those come from outside of the province.
  • 1500 contractors.
  • 236 aircraft are adding support.

For more info, visit the BC Wildfire website.

Original shot of above image via Jonathon Brown.

Don’t need to hide behind the mask.

Deputy Health Officer Bonnie Henry is hopeful that incoming rain will clear up an ongoing air quality advisory around Metro Vancouver.

“I’ve been getting a lot of questions about using face masks, we do recommend certain types of particulate respirators for people who have to be outdoors during these smoke events close to fires, but we don’t recommend it, in general, for most people,” Henry says. “The negative health effects generated from breathing smoky air, you know this is still a relatively short event, so most of those health effects are acute exacerbations of people’s chronic illness and the best thing you can do is try to stay out of that air, as much as possible.”

To improve the air in your home, she advises closing your doors and windows, and install a HEPA filter.

Laying off strenuous activity and drinking plenty of water will also keep everyone healthier.

“Some people may choose to wear a mask when they’re outside, we absolutely do not recommend wearing respirators or masks indoors, they add to the work of breathing and can make your condition worse,” Henry adds. “If you do choose to wear them outside, surgical masks or paper masks, really will not protect your lungs from wildfire smoke, they may help with ash closer to the fires, but not from breathing smoky air.”

She adds that paper masks are completely useless for  people with facial hair.

Evacuation zone grows.

A warning for back country enthusiasts, the BC Wildfire Service has closed all crown land within the Cariboo Fire Centre to the public due the extreme danger from fires.

Skrepnek adds that the Barkerville tourism town and other commercial businesses like tourism and guide outfitting are running normally.

Highway 20 near Anahim Lake, Nasco Road by Highway 59, Highway 97 south of Highway 24, and Highway 99 at Highway 97 are all closed, while advisories continue for other highways. You can find the most up-to-date list at Drive BC’s website.

Shambhala Music Festival in jeopardy.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau addressed concerns that this weekend’s Shambhala Music Festival in the interior could be stopped if the area needs to be evacuated.

She says she met with local government officials and the festival’s organizers on Thursday to talk about how they would evacuate the area if they needed to.

A pre-evacuation alert is in effect and the festival’s organizers urge anyone taking part to have a designated driver to get you out at a minute’s notice.

You can keep up-to-date on that situation at their website.

Linteau also says two alleged “prolific offenders” were busted by police at a Williams Lake traffic stop recently. They are facing 10 charges related to stolen property and while they are released from custody, they are also exiled by a 50/km ban from around Williams Lake.

To report a wildfire, dial *5555.