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B.C. expected to surpass record 2018 wildfire season for most area burned

July 18, 2023 
By The Canadian Press

July 18, 2023, Vancouver – British Columbia is encroaching on its worst wildfire season on record as more than 370 fires burn in the province.

BC Wildfire Service figures show wildfires have consumed more than 12,900 square kilometres of land so far this year, with many weeks left in the season, compared with 13,500 square kilometres burned in 2018.

Sophie Wilkinson, an assistant professor in environmental management at Simon Fraser University, says the season is on track to be the worst on record, aggravated by the severe drought in many areas of the province.

Her comments come after Canada’s Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair announced last week that federal assistance, including military resources, were being mobilized to help B.C. in its wildfire fight.

As troops arrive in the province, a working group comprised of members of Public Safety Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces and B.C. emergency management and wildfire officials met to focus on deploying the federal resources.

The ministry of emergency management and fire officials are expected to announce their plans for the aid later today, as well as provide an overview of the current wildfire and drought conditions.

Wilkinson says the wildfire season is also “unprecedented” because there have been historic wildfire seasons in other provinces and territories, so interprovincial resources are stretched thin.

“Although military aid has not been common in the past, it will become increasingly common because the severity of both British Columbia and Canada’s wildfire seasons is increasing because of climate change,” Wilkinson said in an interview.

Sarah Budd, a provincial fire information officer for the BC Wildfire Service, said the military is expected to work in a supportive role.

“They’re not going to be doing … direct attack. That takes a lot of training,” she said in an interview. “They’ll be doing more of the mop up and support services.”

B.C. has also made a request for 1,000 international firefighters through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, which co-ordinates firefighting resources across the country.

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