Using computer models based on a conservative rate of temperature increase for the planet, fire ecologists predicted the extent of the worst wildfire season in B.C. history last year was not supposed to happen until 2050.

"It represents a new normal," says ecologist Robert Gray in British Columbia Burning: The Worst Wildfire Season in B.C. History (MacIntyre Purcell $19.95) by Bethany Lindsay, "and is part of a global trend of increasing mega-fires... we're going to see a lot more fire."

In 2017, B.C. declared a state of emergency when more than 200 separate forest fires were raging. Smoke drifted all the way to Saskatchewan. A year later, more than 65,000 people we're evacuated from their homes.

It was the weather and fuel conditions that made last year unprecedented, not the number of blazes. There were 1,339 wildfires in total, but that's actually much lower than the ten-year-average of 1,844 fires per year. It was the third lowest total in the past decade.

As outlined in British Columbia Burning, with photos gathered by Kelly Sinoski, B.C. was part of a global crisis in fire management. Some 4,700 firefighters and associated personnel from across Canada fought the fires with help from experts for Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S., as well as inmates from four B.C. jails who received token payment for ancillary support jobs.

There's a twelve percent increase in lightning strikes for every degree of warming; almost 40% of forest fires in B.C. are started by lightning.

British Columbia Burning provides an overall chronicle of the devastation that was wrought by wildfires on more than 1.2 million hectares in 2017, as well as the resiliency of those who were forced to flee, and the courage of those who enabled them to return.


Everything British Columbia: The Ultimate Book of Lists (MacIntyre Purcell 2019) $19.95 978-1-77276-135-1. Co-author with Andre Weichel

British Columbia Burning: The Worst Wildfire Season in B.C. History (MacIntyre Purcell 2018) $19.95 978-1-77276-090-3

[BCBW 2019]