5,000 hectare forest fire burning uncontrollably in northern B.C.

Dec 19 2017, 11:13 am

With sunny weather and soaring temperatures in the forecast for the foreseeable future, the risk for forest fires in the province will intensify greatly over the coming weeks.

Over the last 48 hours, forest firefighters have been battling a blaze in the northeastern sector of B.C. where a fire has quadrupled in size over a 24 hour span. The fire is near Tumbler Ridge and could cross the provincial borders with Alberta.

Currently, the Red Deer Creek Fire has grown to 5,000 hectares in size – up from its 650 hectare size on Tuesday – and is sending a large column of smoke high up into the sky. Its area at this moment is equivalent to 50 square kilometres or nearly half of the City of Vancouver.

Crews at a nearby oil and gas work camp have been evacuated.

The lack of any precipitation will cause the forest floor to increasingly dry, creating conditions that are ideal for forest fires to easily begin and quickly spread.

Human interaction and carelessness is the number one cause of such incidents. Unattended or unextinguished campfires are of particular concern.

The provincial government has released these precautions for the public to follow:

  • Never leave a fire unattended and make sure the fire is completely extinguished and the ashes are cool to the touch before leaving the area for any length of time.
  • Ensure that enough people, water and tools are on hand to control the fire and prevent its escape.
  • Do not burn during windy conditions. Weather conditions can change quickly and the wind may carry embers to other combustible material and start new fires.
  • Clear twigs, grass, leaves and other combustible material from around the planned fire site to create a one metre fireguard.
  • If planning a large burn, consider conducting smaller burns around the perimeter beforehand to create a fuel break and help stop the fire from spreading beyond its intended size. Keep these fires small and completely extinguish each fire before starting a new one.
  • Before conducting a burn, check with the local fire department, municipality and regional district to check if there are any open burning restrictions or bylaws in effect.

B.C.’s Wildlife Act stipulates that if an outdoor burn escapes and causes a wildfire, the person responsible may be held accountable for damages and fire suppression costs.

Those who violate open fire prohibitions could be issued a ticket for $345 or, if convicted in court, may be fined up to $100,000 and sentenced to one year in jail. If the violation causes a wildfire, the individual could be ordered to pay a penalty of up to $10,000 and all firefighting costs.

The current B.C. forest fire risk as of July 10, 2014 at noon.

forest fire risk
Image: BC Forest Fire

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