B.C.’s first wildfire evacuation of the year isn’t a signal of another hot summer for fires in the province, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says.
The Lejac fire near Fraser Lake, west of Prince George and in between the vast areas of Omineca and Tweedsmuir Provincial Parks, is the first major fire of the 2019 season, after two record-setting years for area burned in the province. The Lejac fire had its evacuation order downgraded to an alert over the weekend and was 70 per cent contained by Monday.
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It’s not an unusual start or a harbinger of things to come, Farnworth said Monday.
“In fact it’s just slightly above average for a normal year,” he said. “The other key issue will depend on what we have in terms of rainfall precipitation in June. That is the bigger predictor of where the fire season is going.”
The B.C. Wildfire Service’s early summer outlook notes that a dry March was eased by normal April weather, and June is traditionally a wetter month. Lack of rain in May and June set up conditions for record fire damage in 2017 and 2018.
B.C. Wildfire Service crews are training for the season, many of them experienced people back for another year of protecting communities and the links that connect them.
“We’ve been out on reconnaissance flights, to find those fires that have been burning deep underground and smouldering over the winter, so we can get an early start on them if there are hotspots identified,” Farnworth said.
The province has a multi-media awareness campaign underway to remind people to be safe with any combustible materials.
“There are significant penalties in place for people who are found to have started fires, up to $1 million,” Farnworth said. “People need to be aware that careless activity, whether it’s a campfire or a cigarette butt out the window, can cause extraordinary damage. Two years ago, at least half the fires were human caused.”