Cluster of fires on northern Vancouver Island is abnormal: climate scientist
Parts of British Columbia normally guarded from large wildfires due to their wet climates are burning, and scientists are taking note.
As smoke begins to clear above much of southern Vancouver Island, a dark and concerning cloud still hangs over the island’s northernmost reaches.
According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, 67 blazes currently rage on the northern section of Vancouver Island. They include a 168-hectare fire near the small community of Zeballos that has threatened homes and prompted an evacuation alert.
But what makes the dozens of hotspots so concerning to experts is the fact that this normally wet region is extraordinarily dry.
“Forest fuels are drier than they have been in the past 40 years,” North Island fire information officer Shayne McCool told CTV News.
Firefighters face an uphill battle as B.C.’s wildfire service confirms trees and debris in the area are at their driest—and most susceptible to fire—in decades.
As more than 200 crew members struggle to douse flames on the North Island, scientists on the southern end of Vancouver Island are attempting to understand why it's happening.
"We are seeing fires in places that typically don't get wildfire,” said Faron Anslow, the lead climate scientist at the University of Victoria’s Pacific Climate Impact Consortium. “So, I think that is another dimension that we will be looking at."
Anslow says he and his colleagues have noted several areas in the province are burning that traditionally don’t.
The research organization expects to investigate this year’s odd fire season on the North Island in hopes of determining whether climate change is to blame.
In total, the B.C. Wildfire service has dispatched more than250 firefighters, support staff and 22 helicopters to the North Island fires.