The B.C. Wildfire Service was monitoring one active wildfire south of Houston on May 26.
The fire, located just one kilometre north of Oknianski Lake, was discovered on May 25 and successfully brought under control. Though the fire covered 13 hectares, authorities have attributed its cause to lightning or natural causes.
The Oknianski Lake fire is the only wildfire currently raging across the Northwest Fire Centre’s jurisdiction, but that number has been fluctuating reflecting an escalating trend of wildfire activity in the area.
Morgan Blois, a BC Wildfire Service spokesperson, said the Houston area has been of particular concern, as extremely dry conditions have left the area very susceptible to fires.
Blois said the Northwest Fire Centre, which Houston is included in, has been trending above average in terms of wildfires this season.
In response to the growing wildfire threat, the B.C. Wildfire Service expanded its existing open fire ban on May 18.
Initially covering the Bulkley and Nadina Fire Zones, the prohibition now extends to the Skeena Fire Zone and the Cassiar Fire Zone.
Under the terms of the ban, Category 2 open fires and Category 3 open fires are prohibited. These include piles of material over two metres high and three metres wide, concurrently burning piles of this size, and stubble or grass burning over an area exceeding 0.2 hectares for Category 2, and larger dimensions for Category 3. Fireworks, firecrackers, and sky lanterns are also prohibited under the ban.
The ban does not extend to campfires measuring a half-metre high by a half-metre wide or smaller, nor to cooking stoves that use gas, propane, or briquettes. It applies to all B.C. parks, Crown lands, and private lands, unless specified otherwise in a local government bylaw.
The majority of wildfires are caused by humans, the B.C. Wildfire Service says.
The B.C. Wildfire Service emphasizes that “human-caused wildfires are completely preventable and divert critical resources away from lightning-caused fires.” They urge the public to practice responsible fire use where permitted. Violations of the open-burning prohibition may lead to significant fines, penalties, or jail time, with additional costs if the contravention contributes to a wildfire.
The northwest has been experiencing exceptionally dry conditions over the past three weeks, coupled with record-breaking temperatures due to a persistent high-pressure system. This weather pattern has also led to river flooding and subsequent evacuation orders and alerts and states of local emergency in numerous areas.
B.C. Wildfire Service continues to monitor the wildfires and will provide updates as necessary. They encourage anyone witnessing a wildfire, unattended campfire, or open burning violation to report it immediately by calling 1-800-663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cell phone in B.C.
Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.