Hundreds of wildfires have burned across British Columbia this summer and left a thick haze over Metro Vancouver that's persisted for weeks now. Yesterday (August 27), the Straight reported that 2018 was second-worst year on record measured by the area that fires have affected. The only year worse was 2017, when that year's wildfires burned roughly 12,000 square kilometres.
Scientists as well as the provincial government have warned that part of the reason B.C. has experienced so many big fires in recent hears is anthropogenic climate change. That's a cumulative effect that's more than 100 years in the making. Humans are also contributing to B.C. wildfires in more immediate—and even stupider—ways.
More than 400 of the nearly 2,000 wildfires that B.C. has battled this summer originated with human actions, according to the Canadian Press. They've resulted from things like campfires left unattended and discarded cigarette butts.
It means that nearly one in four fires that first responders have risked their lives extinguishing were completely avoidable.
"It's important to note that every time we run into a human-caused wildfire, that's a wildfire that didn't have to happen,” B.C. fire information officer Ryan Turcot told CP.
“These human-caused wildfires during periods of heightened fire activity can in some cases divert critical resources away from the natural caused wildfires that we can't prevent.”
As of August 28, there were 56 "wildfires of note" burning across the province.
The province declared a state of emergency and requested assistance from the federal government on August 15.
A campfire ban has remained in effect since July 18. In addition, on August 24, the province asked people enjoying B.C.'s outdoors to use extra caution on account of on account of "record breaking hot and dry conditions have caused widespread elevation of drought levels".
"Be aware of the wildfire hazard in your area and carry a small fire extinguisher, collapsible bucket and small shovel to extinguish any fire that you accidentally start," it reads. " Avoid carrying glass containers into the backcountry, since they can start fires by acting like a magnify glass."
A list of precautions people should take specific to off-road vehciles includes staying on marked trails and refraining from idling in tall grass.
Last year, B.C.'s 2017 wildfire season was the worst in generations. It "dwarfed the historic records for area burned in British Columbia," reads a July 2017 government media release. "Consider also that 2017 was the driest year ever recorded in many parts of B.C.—by a significant margin, according to Environment Canada."
That July 2017 government release notes that year's fires were due, "in large part," to climate change.