Fewer wildfires so far this year on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island has seen considerably fewer wildfires so far this year compared with 2018.

By this time last year, there had been 151 fires on the Island, while there have been 69 this year, fire centre spokeswoman Dorthe Jakobsen said Wednesday.

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“We have had quiet seasons before, but we have certainly have had a quieter season than we anticipated,” she said.

Jakobsen said it has been a welcome change.

“It is nice after the two hectic years we had. I think this season has been good for everyone, the province, the ecosystems, the staff.”

The past two summers were the worst wildfire seasons on record. A record 1.2 million hectares were burned across B.C. in 2017, only to be topped by 2018, when 1.4 million hectares went up in flames. In both years, a provincial state of emergency was declared.

Last year, the northern Vancouver Island community of Zeballos was evacoated due to a fire and other areas were put on an evacuation alert.

Weather has been a big factor in keeping the number of fires down in 2019, Jakobsen said.

“Mother Nature helped us out this summer, and so we would get a couple of hot, dry days and then followed by a couple of cloudy, rainy, cold days.”

That has kept the “forest fuels” moist throughout the summer, she said.

“We have had lots of lightning,” she said. “But it’s been moist enough and it’s come with rain.”

As it stands, a summer without a campfire ban is a distinct possibility. Last year, a campfire ban was enacted July 18.

“We’re not anticipating one, although we are hearing from our weather forecasters that we might be looking at a high-pressure ridge building next week for some hot temperatures,” Jakobsen said.

She said the wildfire season could still go in a different direction.

“We do still have a couple of worrisome areas, which are the south Island and south coast mainland,” Jakobsen said. “We worry about those areas still — they haven’t had the rain that the other areas have had.”

Conditions can change quickly, she said. “It’s been one of those years where it’s just been going back and forth — cold, hot, cold, hot.”

The bulk of the rain that has fallen has tended to miss southern B.C., she said. As a result, “those areas are still dry and [have a] high fire danger.”

On the south Island, a 3.1-hectare blaze at the “Hump”, a steep section of highway outside of Port Alberni, is under control. Jakobsen said rain overnight Tuesday helped the situation.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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