2018 Eutsuk Lake wildfire (File photo)

EDITORIAL: We need to change our fire behaviour

Most wildfires in BC during April and May were caused by humans.

It’s pretty easy not to start a forest fire. Regardless, most wildfires in B.C. during April and May 2019 were suspected to be caused by humans.

When seeing reports of wildfires, gut instinct is to blame climate change. Climate change is certainly a factor in recent years, and it will continue to be. Unusually dry conditions have caught people off guard, and their fires grew out of control.

These conditions are the new normal. Naturally occurring forest fires will of course continue, but people who set fires need to be more careful.

On April 1, 2019, a wildfire started in Squamish because of a backyard burn. On May 10, a 12-hectare wildfire started in Sayward after a slash burn got out of control. On May 13, a 250-hectare wildfire broke out in Oysoyoos because of a vehicle fire that spread to adjacent grass.

If you visit B.C. Wildfire Service online and open the interactive map, you’ll see that an overwhelming majority of the fires are caused by humans.

Whether you believe in climate change or not (it’s not really a debate though), one thing is clear: the people of British Columbia need to be much more mindful of their fire behaviour.

Most of us are sick and tired of watching our province burn year after year because of preventable fires. 2017 and 2018 were both record setting years for forest fires. Estimates say the cost of 2018 fires is $615 million.

In response, the BC provincial govrnment has increased its budget for wildifre spending by 58 percent, bringing the total annual budget to $101 million. That money will go toward funding more crews, enhancng aerial capacity, and funding fire prevention programs.

One of the biggest things the government says it can do better is build relationships with communities to educate people on fire risks, and better fire behaviour.

As time goes on, we will see hotter, dryer, longer summers. This will likely result in worsening fire seasons as well.

Now is the time to reflect on our fire behaviour, and change it for the better. We can’t afford any more years like the past two.

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