2018 B.C. wildfire season is officially the worst on record

Vancouver Courier

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It seemed inevitable, but statistics released Wednesday have pushed wildfire benchmarks to horrible levels previously unseen in the province.

More hectares of B.C. forests have burned this year than ever before. Should Metro Vancouver issue one more air quality advisory before the end of the 2018, that too will set a new record.

These photos from the Tunkwa Lake near Logan Lake were taken earlier this summer.
Photograph By Brendan Kergin

The updated numbers released Wednesday point to 1,298,454 hectares of forest lost to wildfire. The previous record was set last year, when 1,216,053 hectares of trees burned.

The northwestern part of the province is affected far worse than any other region of B.C., as 838,873 hectares of land have burned. The next closest is the Coastal region, which covers Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and much of the south coast, where 162,500 hectares of land have been impacted.

Wednesday’s updated numbers coincided with the B.C. government extending its province-wide state of emergency. First issued Aug. 15, the declaration will be extended until Sept. 12 and can be extended or rescinded as necessary.

The number of active fires burning across B.C. sits at 534, while the total number of fires for the current season since April 1 sits at 2,011. Thirty-four evacuation orders affecting approximately 3,200 people are in place, along with 53 evacuation alerts impacting approximately 21,800 people.

There were 3,064 fires in 2009, far and away the highest number over the last decade. The amount of hectares that burned that year, however, was 247,419.

Only three times in the last 18 years has the province issued a state of emergency, which gives government, law enforcement and firefighting personnel the authority to take every measure of action necessary to fight the fires.

Similar declarations came in 2003 and 2017, when the order lasted 10 weeks from July 7 to Sept. 15. The state of emergency was extended four times.