B.C. fire season a relatively quiet affair

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s fire season is significantly less active this year compared to previous years, allowing provincial fire crews to be sent to Idaho, Montana and Washington to help battle blazes there.

A crew of 24 firefighters, including B.C.’s parachute attack crew, are still in Montana, 41 are in Idaho and a crew has returned from Leavenworth, Wash.

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The cost for these resources will be recovered from the jurisdictions where they were sent, said Kevin Skrepnek, a provincial fire information officer with B.C. Wildfire Management Branch.

“We had a downturn in activity in August so we could free up resources and sent crews to these other jurisdictions,” Skrepnek said on Wednesday.

He said although there have been 1,707 wildfires in B.C. since April, compared with 1,328 last year, most of this year’s fires were easily contained at a cost so far of $124 million. That compares to $155 million spent on firefighting operations last year.

The average annual number of wildfires over the last 10 years is 1,760.

Skrepnek said so far this year, 11,556 hectares have burned in B.C. That compares to 52,322 hectares burned in 2012.

“We had much larger fires last year, especially in northern B.C. This year, it’s been up and down in activity — with a steady summer until the first few weeks of August, which were very active with lightning,” he said. “But almost all the lightning came with rain. It did still cause hundreds of fires but most were relatively small,”

Skrepnek said most of the wildfires also happened in remote areas, but in May a fire in Spatsum Creek, near Ashcroft, did result in evacuations of residents.

The fire season generally happens from May to September. The province has about 1,000 firefighters.

The Wildfire Management Branch can bring in approximately 1,500 more under private contracts, and call upon firefighters in the rest of Canada and the northwest United States, under mutual aid agreements.

The deployment of firefighters to Idaho also included sending two air tankers and a bird-dog aircraft.

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