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Photo Caption - A fuels management crew at work this fall. If we stay on the current burning trajectory seen across the planet we may need as many wildfire and fuels management workers as tree planters.

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B.C.’s Exceptional 2019 Wildfire Season

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This year in B.C. we got a pass, escaping what would have been our third consecutive disastrous wildfire season. That isn’t the case in the next province over the Cordillera. Alberta is winding up (down?) its second worst season on record with 883,412 hectares burned, and some still on fire.

That is just short of the worst on record; 1981 at 1,357,305 hectares burned. An average Albertan fire year is more like 250,000 hectares. The Edmonton Journal quotes University of Alberta fire expert Mike Flannigan describing this kind of year as “the new reality.” Click >Here<

Alberta, it turns out, unlike B.C. this year, is more in keeping with the trend worldwide. The European Space Agency using its Sentinel-3 World Fire Atlas for monitoring wildfires on a world scale stated last month that there were five times as many fires burning worldwide in August 2019 then in the previous August. Click >Here<. Last year’s August saw 16,000 wildfires.

This year saw 79,000. Those fires were in Lebanon, California, the Arctic, Greece, France, Indonesia, Russia and others. (Obviously, they didn’t include the antipodes where the fire season occurs oppositely and in the other direction.)

The Pyrocene Age is Upon Us

Anyone who has read fire historian Steven J. Pyne’s many books on fire and culture knows he is never short of words, or ways to put them. Recently he philosophized that we are entering a time in human history he calls the Pyrocene. An age of fire brought about by burning fossil fuels, which leads to climate change, and then the burning of earth. Or, as only he would put it, “We are creating a fire age that will be the equivalent to the Ice Age.” Click >Here<

In Pyne’s world, every fire put out is fire put off. That would be a very demoralizing dilemma if it’s true.

A recent article in the Association of BC Forest Professionals magazine Forum offers some hope. Click >Here<

 It comes with the encouraging title Slash Burning Can Be a Beneficial Tool in Mitigating the Influence of Climate Change on Fire Behaviour. This is more like what we need to hear. Another benefit of burning slash on blocks would be to increase the capacity and competence of our wildfire fuels management and fire suppression contractors who might undertake this work.

Reviving slash burning (it has shrunk considerably over the decades for various reasons like public pressure, liability, etc.) could keep these crews busy across a longer field season. With that opportunity they could practice their fire-related skills and form a stronger attachment to the sector by being able to work for a fuller season. By all above accounts we are going to need many more of these kinds of workers in the future

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