Fewer forest fires this year

WHILE THE number of forest fires to date in the northwest region is at a five-year low, the total area that did burn is up from previous years.

WHILE THE number of forest fires to date in the northwest region is at a five-year low, the total area that did burn is up from previous years.

As of July 25, 16  forest fires were recorded, burning 11,011 hectares. In 2010, 44 fires burned 10,488 hectares, 77 fires in 2009 burned 2,986 hectares, 34 in 2008 burned 109 hectares and 23 fires in 2007 burned 26 hectares by the same date.

Although this year’s number is low, the amount of hectares burned is large because of the Tisigar fire near the Yukon border that started in late May.

The lighting-started fire began when weather was hotter and drier around that time.

“It is usually only under fairly extreme conditions that a fire will get very large,” said Lindsay Carnes, regional fire information officer. “In the case of the Tisigar Lake fire, the volatile fuel type combined with strong winds and hot dry weather was what caused the extreme fire.”

The Tisigar Lake fire burned approximately 11,000 hectares up to July 27, and although it is active, it’s not considered a risk to people or  property.

Carnes said she doesn’t expect to see any major fires in the region because of cool weather conditions.

That’s in contrast to the end of July 2010 leading into early August when lightning strikes caused 51 new fires and the number of hectares burned climbed to approximately 21,000.

“Over 90 percent of fires are contained at less than 4 hectares in size,” said Carnes, giving an example of the dramatic effects weather conditions can have.

A number of lighting strikes took place last year in near drought conditions, and the fires they started pushed 2010 to a year with record fires and hectares burned in the region.

“Last year, we had unprecedented conditions,” said Carnes of the weather.

“The fuels this year are different and the weather this year is very different. It’s doubtful if there were any fires that would become this year what they were last year,” said Carnes.

But Carnes said that forest fires, large or small, are not all bad depending upon the circumstances. “Fire actually works to act as a natural cleanser for the forest,” she said. “The fire doesn’t burn everything, but creates a mosaic of differently aged trees that work to support a greater diversity of life.”