Dry conditions last fall have set the stage for an early start to the wildfire season in northern and Central BC, where Fort St. John was put on evacuation alert earlier this week due to the Stoddart Creek and Red Creek wildfires.
High temperatures are set to head south this weekend, according to the BC Wildfire Service, bringing lightning and increasing the risk of further trouble in the southern Interior.
As of May 16, there were 61 wildfires burning across the province, or nearly a quarter of the 230 wildfires reported this year. Of these, 43 are burning in the Prince George Fire Centre, which includes the Peace.
The fires have put approximately 130 livestock operations under evacuation orders and a further 90 on evacuation alert, according to the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
The activity signals an exceptionally early start to the region’s core fire season, and comes on the heels of a severe, extended drought last fall that saw the region end the year at a Level 5 drought rating.
The return of high temperatures and wildfire signal a tough start to the new growing season, with the province yet to offer a reassessment of moisture levels in the region and across the province.
“The drought portal resumes updates around the end of May/beginning of June as spring freshet eases and the province can accurately assess measurements taken to determine drought levels,” BC Ministry of Forests staff told Country Life in BC.
While the good weather has given grain producers in the Peace a head start on the season, producer and BCGPA vice-president Jennifer Critcher says moisture is needed.
“We are so dry and desperate for rain,” she says.
In the meantime, the growing risk of wildfires has led to a province-wide ban on open burning that will take effect May 18. All fires except Category 1 campfires that are a half-metre wide by a half-metre high or smaller are banned. Category 1 fires must be hedged by a fireguard and those lighting them must have a hand tool or at least eight litres of water available nearby to properly extinguish them.
With files from Kate Ayers