A look back at the biggest wildfires to ever burn across B.C.

  • Aug. 26, 2020 7:00 a.m.
The Okanagan Park wildfire of 2003 is considered the most significant interface wildfire event in BC history. (File Photo)The Okanagan Park wildfire of 2003 is considered the most significant interface wildfire event in BC history. (File Photo)
A 1998 Salmon Arm fire destroyed 40 buildings.A 1998 Salmon Arm fire destroyed 40 buildings.
The Penticton Wildfire, also known as the Garnet fire, occurred in ‘94.The Penticton Wildfire, also known as the Garnet fire, occurred in ‘94.
The Great Vancouver WildfireThe Great Vancouver Wildfire

A number of particularly large and destructive wildfires have occurred in B.C. over the years. Here’s a look back at the 10 biggest fires in B.C. history based on size.

Great Vancouver Wildfire – 1886

On June 13, 1886, a fire destroyed most of Vancouver, which had only been incorporated three months earlier and was still surrounded by forest. A clearing fire blazed out of control and after one hour only two of the 400 original buildings were left standing. As a result, it was decided that replacement construction should be of brick stone or cast iron.

The fire killed at least 21 people.

Wisp Wildfire – 1950

The fire burned from north of the Fort St. John area into Alberta along the Chinchaga River. The total area burned was 1.4 million hectares. The B.C. portion was 90,000 hectares.

Penticton Wildfire – 1994

The Penticton Wildfire, also known as the Garnet fire, occurred in 1994. More than 5,500 hectares were burned, over 3,500 people were evacuated, and 18 homes and structures were lost. The fact that the fire occurred in an interface area increased the severity of the damage.

Salmon Arm Wildfire – 1998

One of British Columbia’s worst wildfires occurred in 1998 in the Salmon Arm area. It burned over 6,000 hectares, caused the evacuation of approximately 7,000 people, destroyed 40 buildings, and cost over $10 million to extinguish.

READ MORE: BC Wildfire continues suppression efforts on Christie Mountain blaze

Okanagan Mountain Park Wildfire – 2003

The Okanagan Mountain Park Wildfire, during the 2003 fire season, was the most significant interface wildfire event in B.C. history. The fire’s final size was 25,600 hectares. Much of B.C. was affected, but the communities of Naramata and Kelowna suffered the most when the blaze caused the evacuation of 33,050 people (4,050 of these people were also evacuated for a second time) and 238 homes were lost or damaged. The fire also claimed 12 wooden trestles and damaged two other steel trestles in the historic Myra Canyon.

Lava Canyon Wildfire – 2009

Lava Canyon in the Chilcotin saw the largest wildfire of the 2009 season at 66,719 hectares (667 square kilometres) and led to evacuation orders and alerts.

Binta Lake Wildfire – 2010

Binta Lake Wildfire, south of Burns Lake, grew from 7,000 to about 35,000 hectares in a 12-hour period due to dry conditions and strong winds. At its final size of 40,000 hectares (400 square kilometres), this was the single largest blaze of 2010 and resulted in evacuation orders and alerts.

Chelaslie River Wildfire – 2014

This wildfire occurred seven kilometres south of the Chelaslie River and burned an area of 133,098 hectares (1,331 square kilometres), including sections of Entiako Provincial Park. This fire resulted in several evacuation alerts and orders.

Elephant Hill Wildfire – 2017

This wildfire started on July 6, 2017, about 2.5 kilometres southwest of Ashcroft. It eventually burned 191,865 hectares in B.C.’s south-central Interior region, including parts of both the Kamloops Fire Centre and Cariboo Fire Centre.

The BC Wildfire Service’s fire specialists’ report indicated that the most likely cause of the Elephant Hill wildfire was smoking or smoking materials, such as cigarettes or cigars.

North Baezaeko Wildfire – 2018

The fire located south of Kluskoil Lake Park and 85 kilometres west of Quesnel was discovered on Aug. 1, 2020. Lightning was believed to be the cause and prompted evacuation orders and alerts.

All information provided by BC Wildfire Services

bc wildfires