Streak of human-caused wildfires raise concern

The Southeast Fire Centre tended to four human-caused wildfires that broke out in the East Kootenay over the weekend.

The Southeast Fire Centre tended to four human-caused wildfires that broke out in the East Kootenay over the weekend.

The four fires, all of which were preventable, add to the 25 other human-caused blazes that the Southeast Fire Centre has already responded to this season.

Two of the fires were in the Elk Valley.

One of the fires burned 14 kilometres north of Sparwood, and was caused by unsafe target shooting. The other, which went up in smoke 13 kilometres north of Elkford, is currently under investigation.

According to Fire Information Officer Fanny Bernard, there has been an increase in human-caused wildfires this season compared to last.

“So far in the Southeast Fire Centre we have had 30 fires compared to 16 at this time last year. In the Cranbrook Fire Zone, which Fernie is in, we have had 17 fires, compared to eight at the same date last year. Drier conditions are causing fuels to be more prone to ignition than could be expected at this time in the season. This, and an earlier start to backyard burning and campfire use, explains the higher numbers of fires,” said Bernard.

The other two fires were located east of Cranbrook and were caused by unsafe campfire use.

The Southeast Fire Centre also attributes the increase in wildfire risk to unseasonably mild temperatures and low relative humidity.

“It could be that people are surprised by a turn in the weather, in which case they may need to postpone their burning for a day when the conditions are more favourable,” explained Bernard.

Bernard added that residents need to remain vigilant with open burning and recreational activities, and to burn only what can be properly controlled. When extinguishing a fire Bernard also advised that residents ensure that the embers are cool to the touch before an area is vacated.

Those who see a wildfire or unattended campfire are encouraged to call the Wildfire Reporting Hotline at 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on a cell phone.