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Editorial: Wildfire risk should be fresh in our mind in B.C.

We’ve known for months that a challenging wildfire season is approaching
The Parker Lake wildfire near Fort Nelson is seen through an aircraft window as it burns Friday, May 10. (B.C. Wildfire Service photo)

More than 100 wildfires are already burning around B.C., and there’s still a month to go before summer.

Thousands of people have evacuated their homes in the Fort Nelson area in northern B.C., where the human-caused Parker Lake wildfire had burned more than 5,000 hectares as of press time and was expected to worsen.

There is always some unpredictability to wildfire season, but then again, there is also a grim predictability. B.C.’s Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma, two months ago, was asking British Columbians to prepare for an early start to the wildfire season. She said she wasn’t trying to scare people, but rather encourage them to be ready.

“The climate crisis is here and we are feeling the impacts of climate change,” Ma said, acknowledging that many parts of B.C. did not accumulate hoped-for snowpack levels.

We don’t have to think very far back to recall the danger and devastation wildfire season brings.

2023 was B.C.’s worst-ever year for wildfires, with 2.84 million hectares burned. Wildfires destroyed or partially damaged 600 residences and insurance losses added up to an estimated $700 million. Almost 49,000 British Columbians received evacuation orders and 137,000 received evacuation alerts. Available figures peg the direct costs of fighting last year’s fires at $1 billion, said B.C. Forests Minister Bruce Ralston.

The province will again spend what it takes, and well-trained firefighters will be at the ready, with more willing to go wherever they’re needed with whatever fire engine their hall can spare.

There’s only so much the rest of us can do, and it isn’t too much to ask, all things considered. We should be fire smart and dispose of smoking materials properly. We should be water smart and try to conserve. We should think about emergency preparedness, including a wildfire evacuation plan. We need to heed burn bans for now, and campfire bans once they come into effect. And there are any number of little decisions we make every day that have some infinitesimal but not insignificant impact on combatting climate change.

Let’s try for fewer fires rather than fuelling fires.

READ ALSO: Evacuation calls expand in northeastern B.C. as Fort Nelson wildfire grows