The Cowichan Valley had its first wildfire of the season last weekend. Fortunately, it did not reach the scale of blazes, like the one pictured, that plagued the province last summer. (File photo)

Cowichan’s first wildfire of the season extinguished near Lake Cowichan

Authorities hoping for wet spring

Low humidity and high winds helped feed a small wildfire on April 27 south of Lake Cowichan, by the Fairservice Main logging road.

Donna MacPherson, a spokeswoman for B.C.’s Coastal Fire Centre, said the fire, on private forest land, grew to about 1.5 hectares before firefighters got it under control.

She said the fire, which was determined to have been caused by humans, is one of seven the CFC has dealt with so far this spring in coastal areas, with the usual number at this time of the year around four.

MacPherson said the month of March in B.C.’s coastal areas is typically wet, but it wasn’t as wet this year and that is a factor in the increased number of wildfires.

“We went straight from snow to sun this year, which is what northern regions typically get in March, but it’s unusual for the coast,” she said.

“The sun stopped the usual ‘greening up’ of the coastal areas for a time, leaving dead and dry grass on top of the ground that’s easy to ignite. People who are backyard burning this spring should be aware that conditions are a little drier than usual right now.”

Last year was the worst wildfire season on record in B.C., with approximately 1,300,000 hectares burned in almost 600 fires by the end of August.

RELATED STORY: 2018 NOW B.C.’S WORST WILDFIRE SEASON ON RECORD

The province declared a state of emergency in early August, and the smoky and hazy air from fires burning in the province’s interior covered the Lower Mainland and parts of Vancouver Island late in August, prompting heath authorities to issue air-quality advisories.

RELATED STORY: WILDFIRE SMOKE BLANKETS B.C. AND ALBERTA, PROMPTING AIR QUALITY ADVISORIES

MacPherson said those who are in jurisdictions that allow backyard burning should ensure their fires this spring are situated so they can’t spread; they shouldn’t burn if it’s windy; and the fires should be closely monitored and completely out and cold before they are left.

She said, while long-range weather forecasts are difficult to predict and hard to depend on, Environment Canada is calling for a warmer than normal spring and summer months this year, with normal amounts of precipitation.

“The number of wildfires we have depends a lot on the precipitation,” MacPherson said.

“If it rains in moderate amounts every few days, we’ll have less fires, but if it comes in several large rain events with long dry periods in between, it increases the fire risk. We always hope for a lot of rain in June, but that’s been hit-and-miss over the last few years.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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