B.C. travelers warned about wildfires, with 2017 reaching historical worst levels

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      While the Labour Day weekend may seem like a prime opportunity to reconnect with nature, the B.C. Wildfire Service is reminding vacationers about the dangers of being in the outdoors in one of the most disastrous years for wildfires in the province's history.

      The B.C. government announced today (September 1) that it is extending the state of emergency to September 15.

      There are currently 136 wildfires reported in the province (reported as of midnight on August 31).

      There were 21 new fires (three of those were human-caused) that were discovered on August 30.

      So far this year, there have been 1,176 fires since April, which have burned a whopping total of 1,080,941 hectares of the province, according to statistics from the B.C. Wildfire Service website. 

      This year's amount has already surpassed the historical record from 1958 when a total of 856,000 hectares were burnt. (Records have been kept since 1912.)

      To put that in perspective, the average amount from the past 10 years of records (2005 to 2016) has been approximately 155,000 hectares burnt. That means this year's amount so far represents an almost 600 percent increase.

      The largest amount over the past decade was in 2014 with 369,168 hectares burnt, which means this year's amount is headed towards 200 percent more.

      It's also going to be one of the most costly years for fighting fires, as so far this year $435 million has been spent, whereas the average over the past decade has been $182 million.

      Due to record-breaking temperatures, dry conditions, and potential for lightning, the B.C. Wildfire Service is expecting increased fire activity this weekend.

      Several news outlets are reporting that B.C. tourism has already taken a major hit. However, if you plan to travel in B.C. this weekend, here are just some things to be aware of. In general, travelers are advised to stay out of the backcountry and recreation sites in southern B.C. 

      SMJoness/Getty Images

      Coastal region

      Vancouver is located in the Coastal fire centre area, which includes Vancouver Island, Fraser, Pemberton, Sunshine Coast, and North Island-Mid-Coast regions.

      Current wildfires of note in this area include the Harrison Lake East, Precipice Creek, and Slollicum Creek fires.

      In this region, open fires are banned and campfire are restricted with some exceptions, but there are no restrictions on forest use in this area. For more details, visit the B.C. Wildfire Service webpage on regional restrictions.

      SMJoness/Getty Images

      Other areas

      Meanwhile, in the Cariboo, Kamloops, and Southeast fire centres, there are open fire, campfire, and forest use restrictions, and off-road vehicles for recreation are prohibited.

      An evacuation alert was issued in the Moyie Lake area, in the East Kootenay district southwest of Cranbrook, on August 31 due to a 60-hectare fire.

      Today, people were evacuated in Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park (which has been closed) due to the Diamond Creek wildfire in Washington State crossing over into B.C.

      mrdoomits/Getty Images

      Recreational warnings

      If you're out boating, swimming, or other activities on a river or lake must keep clear of any aircraft that may be using the body of water as a resource for their fire suppression activities. Anyone who interrupts such air operations for safety reasons may face a fine or penalty.

      Patrols will be conducted by the RCMP, natural resource officers, and other peace officers during the long weekend to enforce all restrictions and prohibitions.

      The backcountry in the Rocky Mountain Forest District was announced today (September 1) as closed to the public.

      Travellers can also find out more specific information by contacting local B.C. tourism information centres in areas they plan to visit.

      For full details or updates about the state of wildfires in the province, in addition to information on how to report wildfires and how to prevent them, visit the B.C. Wildfire Service website.

      The B.C. Wildfire Service also offers an interactive map of all B.C. wildfires.

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