The summer might be just about over but outdoors enthusiasts planning to get one more camping trip in before the fall rains received some good news today (September 22): fires are once again allowed across the entire southern half of the province.
This morning the B.C. Wildfire Service rescinded campfire bans that were previously in pace for the Cariboo region, Kamloops region, and Southeast region of British Columbia. A campfire ban across the Coastal region was rescinded earlier this week, on September 18.
Bans covering the northern half B.C. were lifted on August 23.
While small campfires are now permitted, larger fires exceeding 0.5 metres are still prohibited.
The government's lifting of campfire bans across southern B.C. comes just in time for National Forest Week, which runs each year from September 23 to 30. The week-long occasion is recognized nationally and was previously called Forest Fire Prevention Week.
A government media release marking National Forest Week emphasizes that this year, B.C. experienced its worst season for wildfires in recorded history.
"The 2017 fire season began slowly, with a wet and cooler than normal spring, but took off on about July 7 and remains in full swing," it reads. "This year dwarfed the historic records for area burned in British Columbia at well over a million hectares, or 12,000 square kilometres, and it's still going. The effects on people, wildlife and our forest economy will be felt for many years to come.
"Consider also that 2017 was the driest year ever recorded in many parts of B.C.—by a significant margin, according to Environment Canada," it continues. "Penticton, Vernon, Kamloops, Kelowna and Cranbrook all had their driest summer since records have been kept. As of early September, Kamloops had only nine millimetres of rain and the average is 93. Kelowna had seven millimetres of rain and usually gets about 110."
The government release notes that the fires were due, "in large part," to climate change.
A state of emergency was declared on July 7 and was extended four times before the provincial government finally let the state of emergency expire at midnight on September 15.
So far in the fiscal year 2017, the province has seen 1,266 wildfires burn 1,209,999 hectares. That compares to a 10-year average of 154,944 hectares burned.
During the last 10 years, the year with the second-most area of land lost to fires was 2014, when 369,168 hectares burned.
The worst year for wildfires on record before 2017 was 1958. According to the Globe and Mail, that year, B.C. lost approximately 856,000 hectares to forest fires.