This photo shows some of the hundreds of personnel who have come from around the world to fight the Elephant Hill wildfire. (Facebook/BC Wildfire Service)

2017 wildfire season will go down as “unprecedented”

Kevin Skrepnek says this wildfire season will go down in history, both for its volatility and the resilience of British Columbians.

Weather conditions continue to play a crucial factor in containment of the 138 wildfires currently burning throughout British Columbia.

There is little rain in the forecast for much of the province and that means the BC Wildfire Service expects work to continue into the fall before all the fires and hotspots can be mopped up, according to Kevin Skrepnek, B.C.’s Chief Fire Information Officer.

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In northern B.C. they expect isolated showers with a slight risk of lightening, but temperatures will remain warm and dry everywhere else —the area around the Kamloops Fire Centre will reach into the mid 30’s this week. Skrepnek says a shift in longterm weather could alleviate things quite a bit, but even with a lot of rain across the southern portion of the province, it will still take some time to get things under control.

Over the weekend, progress was made on both the Philpott Road fire near Kelowna (20 per cent contained) and the Elephant Hill Fire near Cache Creek (50 per cent contained), but the Plateau wildfire in the Cariboo-Chilcotin remains the largest in the province this year, and the largest in recorded history at roughly 492,000 hectares as of today.

At the peak of wildfire season Emergency Management BC had issued evacuation orders to 45,000 residents and there are still 19 orders in place, and another 11,000 people under alert.

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With the Labour Day long weekend ahead, officials ask the public to remain vigilant and report any wildfires. Let someone know where you’re going, be aware of campfire bans and any backcountry restrictions.

Some traffic advisories remain in place and motorists are encouraged to watch DriveBC for the most up-to-date information.

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FortisBC has announced it will now be providing support to customers impacted by the wildfires. A credit will be given to approximately 12,000 natural gas and 2,400 electricity customers during the period of time they were under evacuation orders.

For impacted natural gas customers, this includes the basic, commodity, storage and transport and delivery charges. For impacted electricity customers, this includes the prorated monthly customer charges and applicable per kilowatt hour charges. In both cases, this includes all consumption charges incurred during the evacuation period.

Fortis will also stop calling customers to remind them of outstanding bills and will waive late payment charges on those accounts affected by wildfires.

RELATED: Campfire ban lifted in Northern B.C.

The cost to date for BC Wildfire Service now stands at $404.1 million, with crews responding to 1,127 fires across the province since April 1. These fires have burned 1,061,618 hectares — the most in recorded history.

Asked to present a silver lining to this wildfire season, Skrepnek pointed to no deaths or serious injuries. With thousands of crew members manning the fire lines and many more being evacuated, he said both the public and this province’s first responders have been incredibly diligent throughout the process.


 

@ragnarhaagen
ragnar.haagen@bpdigital.ca

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