Fire season a slow burn

Wildfire activity across the province is down sharply this year, compared with the same time just 12 months ago.

According to figures released today by the Kamloops Fire Centre, just three fires have started in the Kamloops region so far this fire season, burning 10 hectares of forest.

In contrast, at this time last year, 10 fires had been reported, burning 121 hectares of forest.

Numbers are similar provincewide.

This year, 13 fires have burned 23 hectares, while in 2016, 57 fires had been reported, burning 774 hectares of timber.

Much of the change is weather related. A year ago, temperatures began heating up at the end of winter and continued on through April, while this year has been wet and cool for much of winter and the start of spring.

"We've seen a lot of precipitation this winter. But, while there is a lot of precipitation going on, it's not really an indicator of what the fire season is going to look like," said fire information officer Max Birkner.

"It's far too early to predict that right now."

While last season started quickly, it died down significantly after May.

But, while the forests remain wet, Birkner reminds people that can change in a hurry once temperatures heat up.

He says top layers of fuel on the forest floor can become tinder dry in just a few days.

Birkner says the lack of activity has given those provincial firefighters already on duty the opportunity to burn off fuels and remove dead and dangerous trees in high-risk areas.

He says they also get a chance to train and get their equipment ready once they're needed.

In 2016, the province spent an estimated $122 million fighting fires around B.C.

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