Expert suggesting longer and hotter fire seasons in coming years

Fire seasons to get worse?

Hundreds of square kilometres of British Columbia are currently ablaze, and one of Canada's leading experts on wildfires says the worst is yet to come as future fire seasons intensify.

This summer's record-breaking temperatures and a very active start to fire season are reminders for British Columbians of climate change.

Dr. Michael Flannigan, B.C. Research Chair and professor of fire science at Thompson Rivers University, said fire seasons will continue to worsen.

“There's numerous papers out there, and they all find that the warmer we get, the more fire we see enabled,” Flannigan said.

“It creates first longer fire seasons — the warmer it gets the earlier out spring starts and the later fall comes, creating more opportunities and more days to burn.”

Flannigan wanted to remind residents that when it’s not threatening communities, wildfire is important for an ecosystem.

“Fire is a natural part of our ecosystem and our forests survive and thrive. So it's part of Mother Nature, it’s the cycle of life,” he said, adding that wildfires can also help control harmful species like the pine beetle.

Dr. Flannigan’s research aims to aid in wildfire prevention, he said he separates his focuses, to target both human and nature caused fires.

“You actually need two programs, one for the humans, and one for the lightning. And by doing that, then you'll know where to expect the fire ignitions and where to expect the extreme fire weather,” Flannigan said.

“And if they overlap, you move resources and crews there, ahead of time.”

However, Flannigan said no program will ever be 100 per cent accurate.

“Sometimes it'll be a false alarm, the systems aren't perfect and no system is perfect. But overall, if it's right even seven out of 10 times that you need those extra resources, it can help avoid some of these catastrophic fires,” Flannigan told Castanet.

The fire researcher acknowledged that even if his research can prevent catastrophic fires, it's only one piece of the wildfire puzzle.

“Wildfire is a multi-faceted issue, it's gonna need a multi-pronged solution," Flannigan said.

"There's no vaccine, there's no silver bullet — I can't solve this problem by myself.”

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