This Year’s B.C. Fire Season by Some Selected Numbers

WFCA Website


Aug. 18, 2017 WFCA Rumour Mill RoundUp   Volume 17, Issue 16

Kelowna 2003, Slave Lake 2011, Fort McMurray 2016, this year’s provincial wildfire emergency, and let’s not forget the almost catastrophic near-miss of 2015 when 138 campers narrowly escaped a fast-moving wildfire near Rock Creek B.C. Each of these represents a possible “focusing event” for governments to enact effective policies to reduce the province’s vulnerability to wildfire and better adapt to climate change. But it’s obvious from current events and recent reports that our governments’ commitment to reducing this natural hazard threat, so far, have tended to be uneven at best. In general natural disasters tend to be a low public priority until the moment they strike. After disasters public and policy makers’ interest in disaster preparation, mitigation and relief increases. But that interest tends to fade until the next disaster, rekindling interest and repeating the cycle.

One way to break this pattern is to realize disastrous wildfire seasons themselves will not make governments act to implement policy to mitigate damage from future disasters. These events will only be opportunities for change if there is coordinated pressure on policy makers from the technical/professional community, policy entrepreneurs and the public. Our BC government is now dealing with one of the worst fire seasons on record. The good news is that it also has a chance to make this summer a true “focusing event” in reducing our vulnerability to disastrous wildfires. They can do that by working in part with interest groups that could offer needed technical and scientific expertise. The WFCA would welcome a process along those lines leading to ways to make communities and the landscape more resilient in the face of wild fire rather than disaster zones, which seems to be where we are headed.

Annual Allowable Cut Going Down

Since January 1 of this year Provincial Chief Forester Diane Nicholls has been busy having made three TFL and six TSA annual allowable cut determinations. On the Coast, four TSA changes have occurred including the reorganization of the previous North Coast, Central Coast, Kingcome and Strathcona TSA’s into the Great Bear North, Great Bear South and North Island TSA’s. In aggregate, the changes to these TSA’s resulted in a net reduction of over 593,000 cubic metres of AAC or fully 17% of the pre-Great Bear Rainforest Act AAC.

In the Interior, two TSA AAC decisions were seen in both the Quesnel and Invermere TSA. Both resulted in reductions to the cut. In aggregate, these determinations resulted in a cut reduction of about 2.2 million cubic metres. With more AAC determinations on the horizon it is clear that the AAC in a post MPB word will be less.

Speaking of Volume, What About Value?

That this is an old, almost classic, forestry question is no reason not to ask it again. It has connections to the question of the merits of managing to free growing. (Or maybe we could rephrase that to say, the questioning of the merits of managing to free growing.) It relates to timber supply, stocking standards and job creation as well. On that last point we include this table comparing some of BC’s forestry activities to Sweden as recently shared with us by one of our forester friends. The facts kind of speak for themselves, we think, on the potential for BC job creation in forestry and increasing the quality our timber resource if we concentrate on producing timber value rather than volume.

Once again this year wild fire smoke has been B.C.’s main forest product export measured by the tonne annually. If we total direct and post fire emissions including GHG and others at 900,000 hectares burned the modeling shows 446,661,843 tonnes up in smoke into the atmosphere. If that is beyond comprehension then consider the same burning as energy released. The fire season has been the equivalent of 28,158 Halifax Harbour explosions when the ship Mount Blanc loaded with 2,925 tons of munitions blew up December 6, 1917. To put it in a nuclear perspective the fire season so far is equal to 6,497 August 6, 1945 Hiroshima detonations. And these are some of the immediate numbers. The long-term impacts measurable in terms of economic losses, full restoration costs and community trauma are yet to come.

BC Fire Ban holds through summer 2017


The big number, of course, is the area burned which stands at over 1 million hectares and growing. Approximately 145 fires were active this week totaling over 1154 so far this year. This week saw around 3800 firefighters on the fire line or in support. Almost 900 are from out of province with another 1500 at least from contract crews. Since things blew up in June at minimum 2,000 fire fighters have been on the line 14 hours per day seven days a week.
Some other figures and modeling crossed our desk earlier based on the then 900,000, or so hectares burned. The numbers assumed 30% of the area burned is in the timber harvest land base. If we were to plant this area it would require around 326-million seedlings at a cost of $1.20 per seedling including planning, site-prep, etc. That gets us to $391 million in reforestation costs. Natural regeneration is uncertain at this point, but there will be fill planting and possible thinning required to help these stands. And the modeling is out by the ten percent allowing that we are now at 1-million hectares burned. So these estimates and their assumptions may not be that far off.


Keywords: fire watch bc |  bc fire ban | bc wildfire update

Will This Summer’s Smoke Focus the Need for a BC Wildfire Natural Hazard Policy?