HomeLocal NewsIs 'climate change' setting British Columbia on fire?

Is ‘climate change’ setting British Columbia on fire?

We are beginning to see a lot more of the sun as the summer rolls around and wildfire season is heating up.

Some parts of the province have already had poor air quality warnings as the smoke filled the sky.

If you are reading or watching the main stream on Canadian television you may have seen a claim that “scientists” are linking this wildfire season directly to “climate change”.

Canada’s ‘unprecedented’ fire season linked to climate change, will be the new normal: scientists” reads the headline.

“They are burning larger areas, they’re burning more severely, they’re burning over a longer fire season in mountainous regions, they’re burning at higher elevations where it’s typically cooler as well.” Kristina Dahl, principal climate scientist for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists said to CTV News.

“Climate change has been implicated in worsening wildfires across North America,” she said.

In all of BC there have been a total of 373 wildfires in 2023’s wildfire season which includes fires burned between April 1st 2023 and March 31st 2024, at the time of writing this article.

Usually Natural (lightning) caused wildfires account for most of the fire starts, about 60% and the other 40% are human caused wildfire starts. In the current wildfire season, year to date there is 63.54% human caused, 29.49% Natural (lightning) caused and 6.97% unknown cause.

Last week it was reported the RCMP had arrested a woman for arson related to intentionally setting fires in the forest near Sooke, B.C.

Woman arrested for ‘intentionally’ setting fires in woods near Sooke, B.C.: police

Taking a look at the government of British Columbia wildfire data between 2008 and 2022 the number of wildfires per year are relatively similar.

The “scientist” on CTV News claims that wildfires “are burning larger areas” than they did before. According the BC Wildfire services Statistics & Geospatial Data and publicly available historical data the total area burned looks spiritic but does show a couple more larger area burned than in the past.

The record for most hectares burned in BC Wildfires on public record was in 1950 when British Columbia saw 1,400,000 hectares of forest go up in fiery blaze.

In the past decade there is three years with excessively more hectares burned than normal. The total number of hectares burned in 2017 was 1,216,053, 2018 a total 1,354,284 hectares was scorched and 2021 saw 869,300 hectares go up in flames.

The record set in 1950 for the most area burned in BC Wildfires still stands today but fire burned on the BC and Alberta border. The Wisp Wildfire spread north of Fort St. John and into Alberta, following the Chinchaga River. The total burned area was 1,400,000 hectares. The British Columbia section was 90,000 hectares.

From the publicly accessible data released by BC Wildfire Services it is evident that wildfires are natural to British Columbia and they’re not a new phenomenon. So what is going on?

First of all “climate change” isn’t running around lighting wildfires. As the data from BC Wildfire showed us, it’s on average a split between human caused and naturally (lightning) caused.

Climate activists are now linking “climate change” to wildfires because of dry and hot conditions. The summer weather provides fuel for wildfires to grow that are caused by humans and lightning strikes.

This is indeed a true fact, dry and hot conditions building up fuel loads in the forest for wildfires to blaze out of control.

Scientists and BC’s First Nations communities argue the ecosystem in British Columbia benefits from cultural and prescribed burning and is necessary for the ecosystem of British Columbia to regenerate and continue to thrive.

British Columbia is home to vegetation that depends on a good burning sometimes for it to come back and thrive.

A report published in 1992 also concluded prescribed burns to be beneficial highlighting insect and disease control such as reducing the amount of trees dying from pine beetle infestations. It also highlights some vegetation and tree species like the Lodgepole pine that depends on the fire or heat to release its seeds.

First Nations communities in British Columbia have performed prescribed burns for centuries knowing that wildfires are part of the natural makeup of the land in B.C.

Controversy of prescribed burns boiled up to the surface as society started to embrace fire suppression and fire exclusion practices.

According to CBC, In 2017 Mark Heathcott, who coordinated controlled burns for Parks Canada said “He believes suppressing the forest’s natural cycle, which includes fire, creates the conditions for mega-fires.”

CBC also noted B.C. abandoned the practice of prescribed burning by 2003 because of people complaining about the smoke and possible liability issues.

In a report released a couple years later titled “Joint Follow-up of 2001/2002: Report 1 Managing Interface Fire Risks and Firestorm 2003 Provincial Review May 2005” from the Auditor General of British Columbia recommended prescribed burns because the long term benefits to the ecosystem and reduced public safety hazards and costs out weigh the short term inconvenience of smoke.

“The topic of fuel load reduction through prescribed burns is perhaps the best example of a
strong consensus on what formerly had been a very controversial and divisive debate.” the report stated.

“Simply put, almost everyone who gave advice to the Review Team agreed that it was better to accept short-term inconvenience and irritation in favour of long-term reduction in hazard and cost”

According to a study done by the Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, it found the severity of wildfires also matters. The study also found when Indigenous fire stewardship was replaced with European fire suppression and exclusion the fires became much worse because of dense underbrush to fuel fires more.

“In absence of low- to moderate-severity fires, contemporary forests are dense with closed canopies that are vulnerable to high-severity fire.”

An article published in Environmental Research Letters in 2022 that followed prescribed burns in British Columbia from 1970 to 2021 discovered that the area burned drastically decreased between the 1980s and the early 2000s and had barely changed afterwards.

Other fires in history. On June 13, 1886 Vancouver burned to the ground, after one hour of the blaze it left only 2 of Vancouvers original 400 buildings standing. And on September 17, 1868, Barkerville was destroyed and burned to the ground after a fire started in a saloon.

Wildfires and crime:

  • A woman in BC is being charged with arson following being accused of intentionally setting wildfires earlier this spring near Kamloops, B.C.
  • Another woman in B.C. is being charged with arson for allegedly intentionally setting wildfires near Sooke, B.C.
  • Early last month RCMP in Alberta made an arrest following series of intentionally set wildfires and property arsons.

There appears to be a number of reasons contributing to why wildfires break out in British Columbia from lightning strikes to arson and largely poor forest management.

In a short sighted uneducated sense, Yes, “climate change” is a contributor to wildfires but just saying “climate change” as a blanket reason with no context or with a singular focus is either ignorant or deceptive.

First of all, Yes, climate change is real because the Earth’s climate has been changing for billions of years caused by many factors despite climate extremists trying to highjack the term and change the definition to mean fossil fuels and human caused.

Wildfires are a natural and required in British Columbia to regenerate the ecosystem and cultural burnings much like prescribe burns dates back for centuries within the First Nations communities in B.C.

The data suggests that higher intensity wildfires have scorched European style fire suppression and exclusion culture took hold and British Columbia’s abandonment of prescribed burns and extreme regulations.

The studies combined with the data suggests the best way to address wildfires in British Columbia is to combine modern knowledge and First Nations fire steward, developing new technologies and techniques for executing safe and predictable prescribed and cultural burns.

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Jordan is a casual reporter for BC Rise


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