2017 British Columbia wildfires
|2017 British Columbia wildfires|
|Location||British Columbia, Canada|
|Cost||563 million dollars|
July 6, 2017 – September 20, 2017
Provincial state of emergency: July 7, 2017 – September 15, 2017
|Burned area||1,216,053 hectares (3,004,930 acres) as of December 5, 2017|
|Cause||Lightning and man made|
|Land use||Forest and residential|
|Unknown, at least 305|
On July 6, 2017, a two-hectare wildfire began west of 100 Mile House, British Columbia, Canada marking the beginning of the record breaking 2017 wildfire season in British Columbia. On July 7, 56 new fires started throughout British Columbia (BC) leading to the release of several evacuation alerts, orders and the declaration of a provincial state of emergency by the Government of British Columbia. As of September 12, there are 158 fires currently burning throughout the province. The 2017 fire season is notable for three reasons; first, for the largest total area burnt in a fire season in recorded history (1.3% of BC total area); second, for the largest number of total evacuees in a fire season; and third, for the largest single fire ever in British Columbia.
On July 6, the first of many major fires began, starting at two hectares and quickly progressing to be eight times larger by that evening requiring the issue of an evacuation alert that same day. By July 7, 140 fires started throughout BC with most being in the central interior. The fires were aggressive and grew quickly prompting a state of emergency as well as several evacuation alerts and orders. The next day, 182 total fires were active throughout the province prompted the issuing of up to 20 evacuation alerts and orders. The Emergency Operating Centre in Prince George was activated in addition to Emergency Social Services opening a reception centre and lodging at the College of New Caledonia.
Within three days, the first major fire that started at two hectares had grown to 4,000 hectares resulting in a mandatory evacuation order being released with up to 2,000 residents being evacuated and by the next day over 10,000 Williams Lake residents were placed on evacuation alert. On July 11, there was a total of 200 fires active with 4,000 evacuees registered in Prince George, resulting in the expansion of lodging to University of Northern British Columbia and Prince George Secondary School.
2017's fire season became particularly notable for causing the closure of Highway 97 from Kersley, south of Quesnel all the way south to Pavilion (along Highway 99), and south of Ashcroft. It also closed Bella Coola Highway to westbound traffic and created evacuation alerts the entire length of the Bella Coola Highway from Precipice to the junction with Williams Lake. No other fire season has had the breadth of large fires across the province.
Three fires have achieved particularly notable sizes of over 100,000 hectares. First, there is the Hanceville Fire (resulting from the merger of the Hanceville, Riske Creek and Raven Lake fires), along Highway 20. As of August 20, the fire has reached its largest size of 227,000 hectares, spreading as far south as Gang Ranch west of 100 Mile House. The second notable fire is the Ashcroft Fire (also known as Elephant Hill Fire). This fire started in the Ashcroft Reserve, and spread north of Highway 99 as far as Green Lake east of 100 Mile House. Finally there is the Nazko Complex of fires. This fire started as a series of smaller fires west of Quesnel, two of which were notable in their own right, the Baezaeko River Fire, and the Tautri Lake Complex. These fires merged August 18, 2017, along with the Chezacut Fire and the Arc Mountain Fire to form the Nazko Complex at over 432,000 hectares. This single fire was later renamed the Plateau Complex centred on the Chilcotin Plateau. Overall this behemoth fire covered a combined area of 545,151 hectares, making it the largest fire in B.C.'s recorded history (roughly the same size as Prince Edward Island). This fire was the result of nearly 20 separate fires merging together.
State of emergency
On July 7, a provincial state of emergency was declared by Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, on behalf of the Government of British Columbia. The state of emergency was extended on July 19 and again on August 4, and again on August 18, and again on September 1. This was the first state of emergency for British Columbia in 14 years, and the longest state of emergency in the province's history. On September 15, the state of emergency finally ended at midnight.
Cause and contributing factors
A combination of dry lightning and human-caused fires are responsible for the 2017 BC wildfires. Human-caused fires have been both accidental and intentional, all wildfires in BC are investigated to determine the fire origin and cause. Fire bans and restrictions have been put in place to limit further human-caused fires.
Heat waves and minimal rainfall throughout the province leading up to the wildfires had dried out vegetation and soil. As well, pine forests containing large amounts of dead pine trees due to the mountain pine beetle was optimal fuel for fires. With consideration of these contributing factors, most areas of BC were rated as being at extreme or high risk of fire danger. The wildfires quickly grew in size as a direct result of strong winds with some regions reaching high winds of up to 70 km/h.
More than 39,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and 30,000 cattle have been threatened. The wildfires have reportedly destroyed over 300 buildings ranging from homes and barns to commercial structures.
On July 15, a fire helicopter under contract to BC Wildfire Service crashed in the Chilcotin region during firefighting duties. The only crew on board was a pilot who suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
As of August 13, 3,906 firefighters have been deployed to fight the fires including 647 out of province personnel and 1,606 contractors. Crews are fighting the fires with assistance of 233 helicopters and airplanes. In addition, 50 Australian firefighters, 80 Fire and Emergency New Zealand firefighters and 108 fire personnel from Mexico have come to BC's aid.
Over 15 reception centres were opened province wide by Emergency Social Services. In addition, five cities ranging from Surrey to Williams Lake had opened group lodging centres for evacuees. The Red Cross has opened support centres in Kamloops and Williams Lake and is providing assistance to those affected by the fires with funds from donors, the federal government and the province of BC as promised by Premier Christy Clark.
On September 5, 2017, Canadian Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay announced that farmers and ranchers impacted by the wildfires would be provided $20 million in aid by various levels of government.
- List of disasters in Canada
- List of fires in Canada
- List of fires in British Columbia
- List of wildfires
- 2018 British Columbia wildfires
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- Media related to 2017 British Columbia wildfires at Wikimedia Commons