Wildfire season not so wild in 2012
Sep 2, 2012 / 5:00 am
Despite a recent increase in the frequency of wildfires in the last week, including Friday afternoon's one hectare fire in Okanagan Falls, the 2012 fire season is shaping up to be below normal in terms of both the number of fires in the Kamloops Fire District, and the number of hectares burned.
"It's been pretty quiet so far," says Fire Information Officer Michaela Swan.
That's in spite of the fact that in the last week, Wildfire Management Branch personnel responded to 20 wildfires in the Vernon area.
"They're still just mopping up those ones north of Aberdeen Lake and Mabel Lake," says Swan.
"But they're well in hand."
The fire near Aberdeen Lake, 20 kilometres south of Vernon, was the biggest of that bunch at 42 hectares in size.
Another large fire east of Mabel Lake was burning in dense, heavy fuels, and has proven difficult for crews to extinguish.
Even with that recent flurry of outbreaks, the total number of fires Kamloops Fire District crews responded to this year is down.
"It's certainly below our 10 year average. We've had 360 fires this year and last year was our lowest year on record," says Swan.
At this time last year the district had experienced just 201 fires which burned only 242 hectares.
But is it just the calm before the storm?
Swan says it's not uncommon for a period of quiet years to be followed by seasons of very high activity.
"They always seem to come every five or six years. 1994 was busy, 1998 was busy, then it was 2003 and then 2009."
A closer look at those years shows just how nasty an extreme fire season can be.
Swan says in 2003, the year of the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire , there were 686 wildfires in the district which burned 81,582 hectares along with forcing the evacuations of thousands of people and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses throughout the area.
After five seasons of relative calm, 2009 saw the Glenrosa fire force hundreds out of their homes in West Kelowna, the Terrace Mountain fire near Fintry destroy almost 900 hectares of forest and the Rose Valley Fire take out another 150 hectares all at the same time.
And those were just three of the 894 fires which burned that year. Those fires destroyed 50,472 hectares.
Since then, the Kamloops Fire District has again seen a drop in the number of wildfires they are dealing with. After a record low in 2011, this season only 1,123 hectares burned in those 360 fires.
The 10 year average is 486 fires burning 16,498 hectares.
For the latest information on fire activity, conditions and prohibitions, visit the Wildfire Management Branch website
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