Wildfire Season Summary

The summer of 2017 will be remembered as one of the worst wildfire seasons in British Columbia’s history.

It was unprecedented by measure of:

  • the amount of land burned (over 1.2 million hectares)
  • the total cost of fire suppression (over $568 million), and
  • the amount of people displaced (roughly 65,000 evacuated)

The fire season prompted a Provincial State of Emergency that was declared on July 7 and not rescinded until September 15, lasting 70 days. This was the longest Provincial State of Emergency in the province’s history, and the first to be declared since the 2003 firestorm.

At peak activity, over 4,700 personnel were engaged in fighting wildfires across B.C., including over 2,000 contract personnel from the forest industry and over 1,200 personnel from outside the province. This support came from across Canada, as well as from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and the United States. Ground personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces were also brought in to fight fires for the first time since 2003.

In response to this extraordinary fire season, some extraordinary measures were taken to help prevent human-caused wildfires. Off-road vehicle prohibitions were implemented in the Cariboo, Kamloops and Southeast fire centres and full backcountry closures were implemented in the Cariboo Fire Centre and Rocky Mountain Natural Resource District. Campfires were also banned across most areas of the province throughout the summer due to the incredibly high fire danger rating. Prohibitions like these are very rare in B.C. and are only implemented when absolutely necessary.

With the 2017 fire season finally over, the B.C. government has launched an independent review of this year’s unprecedented wildfire and spring flooding seasons. The review team will examine all aspects of the Province’s response to the floods and wildfires of 2017 and will also engage with British Columbians. The team will deliver a report with recommendations before April 30, 2018, that can be used to inform next year’s spring freshet and wildfire seasons.

Fire Season Timeline

In stark contrast to the summer that was to come, B.C. observed an unusually quiet spring wildfire season. Between April and the end of June, 255 wildfires had burned 1,625 hectares of land. In an average fire season, there would have been about 420 fires and 26,800 hectares burned in this same time span.

Although wildfire activity was low during this time, the province was experiencing notably severe flooding during the spring season. Hundreds of firefighters and other personnel from the BC Wildfire Service were brought in to assist with flood response efforts.

The fire danger for many regions of B.C. began to climb significantly throughout June, although crews were still observing relatively few fire starts. The Cariboo region in particular saw unseasonably hot and dry conditions, as well as record-high Build Up Index (BUI) ratings in several areas. (The BUI is a numeric rating of the total amount of fuel available for combustion, in the event a wildfire does occur.) These developing conditions set the stage for what was to become one of the worst fire seasons on record.

A series of events that took place between July 6 and July 8 dramatically escalated the fire season, and it quickly became clear that firefighters and personnel were coming face-to-face with one of the most challenging summers of their careers. A series of widespread thunderstorms between July 6 and July 8 contributed to over 190 new wildfire starts - the majority of which occurred in the Cariboo. Many of these wildfires grew rapidly and displayed aggressive, dangerous fire behaviour. A number of these fires started in areas close to communities, such as (but not limited to) Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Princeton, Cache Creek / Ashcroft, Clearwater, Quesnel, and many others.

The majority of "Wildfires of Note" from the 2017 season started during this early-July period. The amount of new fire starts declined and stabilized after this early-July spike, but generally hot and dry conditions prevailed for much of the summer, giving little reprieve in the fight against the existing fires throughout the Cariboo and Southern Interior. In August, a second wave of heightened fire activity was experienced, with several major fires cropping up throughout southeastern B.C. and the Southern Interior. The wildfire season remained active until near the start of fall, when cooler, wetter conditions finally gave crews the upper hand on the fire situation.

Notable 2017 Fires

Kamloops Fire Centre

  • Fountain Valley Road (30 hectares), eight kilometres east of Lillooet; discovered May 28; prompted Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Elephant Hill (191,865 hectares), covering an extensive area spanning from near Ashcroft (at the south end) to near BC Highway 24 (at the north end); discovered July 6; prompted Evacuation Orders and Evacuation Alerts. Within its first 24 hours, the fire grew to over 1,000 hectares in size, burned through numerous properties on the Ashcroft Indian Reserve and in the Boston Flats mobile home park, and prompted the entire village of Cache Creek to evacuate.
  • Princeton (3,278 hectares), 10 kilometres northeast of Princeton; discovered July 7; prompted Evacuation Orders and Evacuation Alerts
  • Little Fort Complex (Thuya Lake) (3,607 hectares), three fires near Little Fort and Clearwater; discovered July 7; prompted Evacuation Orders and Evacuation Alerts
  • Diamond Creek (12,453 hectares on BC’s side of the border), in the Ashnola Valley; discovered July 23; part of a larger fire in the U.S. that crossed over into BC; highly visible smoke impacts
  • Philpott Road (465 hectares), 20 kilometres east of Kelowna, near Joe Rich; discovered August 24; prompted Evacuation Orders and Evacuation Alerts
  • Finlay Creek (2,224 hectares), 7.5 kilometres southwest of Peachland; Discovered September 2; prompted Evacuation Orders and Evacuation Alerts

Cariboo Fire Centre

  • The Plateau Complex of fires on the Chilcotin Plateau 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.
  • The Hanceville Complex of fires around Hanceville, Riske Creek, Alexis Creek and surrounding areas covered a span of 241,160 hectares
  • The West Chilcotin Complex of fires in the Chilcotin region covered a combined area of 33,018 hectares. This complex extended into the Coastal Fire Centre and included the 7,368-hectare Precipice fire 52 kilometres east of Bella Coola 
  • The Central Cariboo Complex of fires around Williams Lake, Soda Creek and surrounding areas covered a span of 31,181hectares, including an Evacuation Order for the entire city of Williams Lake and surrounding areas
  • Gustafsen fire (5,700 hectares), just west of 100 Mile House; discovered July 6; prompted Evacuation Orders and Evacuation Alerts

Southeast Fire Centre

  • Harrop Creek (3,117 hectares), 4.5 kilometres south of Harrop-Procter, east of Nelson; discovered July 27; prompted Evacuation Alerts and was highly visible
  • Lamb Creek (2,215 hectares), 2.5 kilometres northwest of Moyie and 18 kilometres southwest of Cranbrook; discovered August 28; prompted Evacuation Orders and Evacuation Alerts
  • Linklater Creek (1,285 on BC’s side of the border), 18 kilometres southwest of Newgate; discovered August 22; part of a larger fire in the U.S. that crossed over into BC; prompted Evacuation Orders and Evacuation Alerts
  • White River (12,000 hectares), 37 kilometres northeast of Canal Flats; discovered July 29; prompted Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Kenow Mountain (15,449 hectares), in the Flathead Valley; discovered August 30; burned into Alberta and the Waterton Lakes National Park

Coastal Fire Centre

  • Harrison Lake East (202 hectares), 30 kilometres north of Harrison Hot Springs near the mouth of Big Silver Creek; discovered July 1; prompted Evacuation Alerts

Previous Wildfire Season Summaries

British Columbia saw an unusually early and active start to its wildfire season in 2016, but overall the season was considered to be “below average” in terms of its cost, number of fire starts, and amount of land burned. Humans were responsible for causing over half (or 566) of the 1,050 wildfires that started in 2016.

Wildfire activity increased dramatically in the Peace Region on April 18, when over 40 fires ignited within the span of a few hours. Due to dry and windy conditions in the area, several of these wildfires grew large quickly, and four of them prompted evacuation alerts and orders to be issued for nearby communities. Investigators found evidence to suggest at least 10 of these wildfires had been deliberately set. Many of these fires continued to burn actively until late May (although some continued to burn at a lower intensity well into the fall months).

Meanwhile, on May 1 the disastrous Horse River wildfire ignited in Alberta. By May 3 it had swept through the community of Fort McMurray, destroying thousands of buildings and forcing Canada’s largest wildfire evacuation to date. The BC Wildfire Service deployed personnel and resources to assist Alberta following a request through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC).

By the end of May, B.C.’s wildfire situation calmed down significantly, and the summer months that followed never reached the same level of fire activity. B.C. deployed approximately 200 firefighting personnel to Alberta by late May, as well as 100 personnel to assist with wildfire response in northern Ontario.

Collectively, the fires that burned in the Peace Region and Prince George Fire Centre during the spring were responsible for 90 per cent (or 91,817 hectares) of the land burned across the province in 2016. B.C. saw moderate levels of rain during June, July and August, which helped to prevent forest fuels from drying out during the core summer period where wildfire activity is typically intense. Only 9,508 additional hectares of land burned between June and November.

Notable 2016 Fires

Prince George Fire Centre

Baldonnel (420 hectares), five kilometres east of the community of Baldonnel, near Fort St. John; discovered April 18; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts

Beatton Airport Road (15,739 hectares), 45 kilometres north of Fort St. John; discovered April 18; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts

Charlie Lake (250 hectares), West of Charlie Lake near Fort St John; discovered April 18; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts

Siphon Creek (85,300 hectares, including 62,700 hectares in B.C. and 22,600 hectares in Alberta), four kilometres east of the Doig River First Nations community, northeast of Fort St. John; discovered April 18; resulted in Evacuation Alerts

South Taylor Hill (850 hectares), South of the community of Taylor; discovered April 18; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts

Halfway River (5,636 hectares), 30 kilometres northeast of Hudson's Hope, along the west-side of the Halfway River; discovered April 19

Kamloops Fire Centre

Bear Creek (53 hectares), 6.5 kilometres north of West Kelowna; discovered August 21; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts

South Spencer Road (532 hectares), two kilometres south of Lytton; discovered August 31; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts

British Columbia endured a major wildfire season in 2015 that saw aggressive fire activity, an above-average number of wildfires and hectares burned, and significant impacts on people and communities throughout the province. While lightning accounted for over two thirds (or 1,234) of wildfires in 2015, many of the most destructive fires were caused by people, and therefore preventable.

The season kicked off earlier than normal with the Little Bobtail Lake fire, southwest of Prince George, which was discovered on May 9, 2015.

Record-breaking hot and dry conditions in to June and July brought “high” to “extreme” Fire Danger Ratings in many areas of the province. In particular, coastal and southern B.C. saw dry conditions and high fire danger ratings that were unusually elevated.

On July 5, 2015 John Phare, a 60-year-old Roberts Creek resident, tragically suffered a fatal injury while felling a danger tree at the Old Sechelt Mine wildfire. This was the first “on the ground” firefighting death in British Columbia in decades. In October 2015, Premier Christy Clark awarded him the first-ever Medal of Good Citizenship for his bravery.

Given the sustained level of activity across B.C., additional personnel and resources were imported from other Canadian jurisdictions as well as Australia, South Africa and the United States. A total of 310 out-of-province personnel were brought in to assist. At the height of the season, approximately 2,500 personnel were working both on the fireline and in support positions across the province.

Throughout the season 1,144 homes were evacuated due to wildfires. Over 50 structures were destroyed by many fires throughout the province, with major losses at Puntzi Lake and Rock Creek.

Notable 2015 Fires

Cariboo Fire Centre

  • Puntzi Lake (8,078 hectares); discovered July 8; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alert

Coastal Fire Centre

  • Elaho (12,523 hectares), 67 km west of Pemberton; discovered June 14
  • Boulder Creek (6,735 hectares), 23 km northwest of Pemberton Meadows; discovered June 14; resulted in Evacuation Orders
  • Cougar Creek (2,868 hectares), south of the Nahatlach River; discovered July 1; resulted in Evacuation Alerts
  • Dog Mountain (450 hectares), on Sproat Lake; discovered July 4; resulted in Evacuation Orders
  • Wood Lake (1,386 hectares), 20 km north of Harrison Hot Springs; discovered August 2
  • Old Sechelt Mine (423 hectares), 2 km north west of Sechelt; discovered August 3; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Lizard Lake (402 hectares), 11 km northeast of Port Renfrew; discovered August 12; resulted in the closure of the Pacific Marine Drive and some nearby recreation sites.

Kamloops Fire Centre

  • Cisco Road (2,214 hectares), 10 km south of Lytton; discovered June 11; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Huckleberry Road (55 hectares), north of Highway 33 near Joe Rich; discovered July 8; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Westside Road (560 hectares), west side of Okanagan Lake, above Westside Road; discovered August 5; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Sidley Mountain (50 hectares), on the US / Canada border east of Osoyoos; discovered August 13; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Wilsons Mountain (317 hectares), 1 km north of Oliver; discovered August 14; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Testalinden Creek (5,133 hectares), 6 km west of Oliver; discovered August 14; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts

Prince George Fire Centre

  • Little Bobtail Lake (25,569 hectares), southwest of Prince George; discovered May 9; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Big Beaver Creek (8,200 hectares), at approximately Mile 250 on the Alaska Highway; discovered July 5, 2015; resulted in the brief closing of the Alaska Highway

Southeast Fire Centre

  • Sitkum Creek (770 hectares), 4 km north of Kootenay Lake; discovered July 4; resulted in Evacuation Alerts
  • Rock Creek (4,417 hectares); discovered August 13; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Stickpin (Washington State) (21,965 hectares– all in the United States), 5 km south of the US / Canada border near Grand Forks; discovered August 11; resulted in Evacuation Alerts

The summer of 2014 was a uniquely challenging wildfire season in British Columbia. Large scale, landscape level wildfires contributed to the burning of almost 360,000 hectares of land - the third highest in our province’s history. While all regions were active, the Northwest and Prince George fire centres were exceptionally busy.

Wildfire activity this season spiked in mid-July, in the midst of a significant heat wave across the province, and continued into late August. Record-breaking hot and dry conditions caused “high” to “extreme” Fire Danger Ratings in many areas of the province.

Between April and November 2014, 1455 wildfires were responded to across B.C. While this statistic is considered below average, many wildfires in 2014 were large, exhibited aggressive fire behaviour, and continually challenged fire suppression efforts. The Fire Danger Rating remained elevated until early September, when it took a sharp downturn with the onset of fall conditions.

Given the sustained level of activity across B.C., additional personnel and resources were imported from all 10 Canadian provinces as well as Yukon, Alaska, and Australia. A total of 1,196 out-of-province personnel were brought in to assist. At the height of our response, over 3,000 people were working both on the fireline and in support positions across the province.

Over 4,500 people were affected by evacuation orders due to wildfires throughout the season, with the largest evacuations taking place in West Kelowna (Smith Creek fire) and Hudson’s Hope (Mt. McAllister fire). Despite the high level of activity, there was minimal loss of structures and infrastructure.

The total amount spent in direct fire costs for the 2014 season was $298 million.

Notable 2014 Fires

Cariboo Fire Centre

  • Euchiniko Lakes (19,923 hectares), 120 km west of Quesnel; resulted in Evacuation Alerts and Orders
  • Bull Canyon (940 hectares), 14 km west of Bull Canyon, on the north side of the highway; resulted in an Evacuation Alert
  • Mount Dent (800 hectares), 100 km northwest of Alexis Creek, 44 km north of Chezacut

Kamloops Fire Centre

  • Smith Creek (280 hectares), West Kelowna; resulted in an Evacuation Order and Alerts
  • Botanie Road (1,248 hectares), north of Lytton; resulted in Evacuation Order and Alert
  • Boot Hill (101 hectares), 30 km southwest of Penticton, near Lookout Mountain
  • Jura (390 hectares), southeast of Missezula Lake, west of Princeton-Summerland; resulted in an Evacuation Alert
  • Maka-Murray (348 hectares), west of Murray Lake; resulted in an Evacuation Order and Alert
  • Apex Mountain (345 hectares), resulted in an Evacuation Alert
  • Drought Hill (40 hectares), north of Highway 97C; resulted in an Evacuation Order and Alert –

Northwest Fire Centre

  • Chelaslie River (133,098 hectares), 7 km south of the Chelaslie River, including sections of Entiako Provincial Park; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • China Nose (3,450 hectares), 15 km southeast of Houston; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts

Prince George Fire Centre

  • Mount McAllister (26,273 hectares), 56 km west of Chetwynd; resulted in Evacuation Orders and Alerts
  • Red Deer Creek (33,547 hectares), 61 km southeast of Tumbler Ridge, burned into Alberta; resulted in an Evacuation Order
  • Tenakihi-Mesilinka Complex (64,576 hectares), 50 km west of Williston Lake, between the Mesilinka River and Tenakihi Creek
  • Forres Mountain (29,672 hectares), 50 km northwest of Williston Lake; resulted in an Evacuation Alert
  • Stack Creek (1,625 hectares), 37 km east of Mackenzie
  • Morfee Lake (180 hecatres), 6 km east of Mackenzie
  • Mugaha (185 hectares), 8 km up Mugaha Creek
  • Chinchaga River (980 hectares), 7 km northwest of Chinchaga River
  • Tommy Lakes (4,400 hectares), 60 km northeast of Pink Mountain; resulted in an Evacuation Alert
  • Chuchi Lake (80 hectares), 2 km north of Nation River; resulted in an Evacuation Alert

Southeast Fire Centre

  • Slocan Park (90 hectares), 2 km north of Highway 6 near Slocan Park; resulted in an Evacuation Alert
  • Vowell Creek (900 hectares), 92 km southeast of Revelstoke, near Parson; resulted in an Evacuation Alert
  • White Complex (six fires in complex, largest was 2,000 hectares), near Canal Flats

The 2013 fire season, while statistically average, saw scattered periods of very intense activity across British Columbia.

Weather over the summer was, for the most part, seasonal and warm. Following a usually dry July in many parts of the province, an intense low pressure system swept through B.C., bringing unstable weather and lightning. During this period, as many as one hundred new fires were starting every day. Thanks to the hard work and quick response of our crews, most of these fires were contained quickly. By the Labour Day long weekend, the arrival of cool and wet weather in most areas lowered the fire danger rating and put a stop to significant wildfire activity.

Given the relatively low level of activity in B.C. during parts of the summer, the BC Wildfire Service was able to deploy personnel to assist other jurisdictions, including Alberta, Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Montana, Washington and Idaho. Crews from the BC Wildfire Service also assisted Emergency Management BC with flood response efforts.

In total, approximately $122M was spent on wildfire suppression, with more than $17M recovered from assisting other jurisdictions.

Notable 2013 Fires

Kamloops Fire Centre

  • The Spatsum Creek wildfire, south of Ashcroft, grew to 1380 hectares in early May of 2013. It resulted in an evacuation order and alert, and briefly closed Highway 97C.

Northwest Fire Centre

  • The Eutsuk Lake wildfire in Tweedsmuir North Provincial Park was the largest fire of the season, burning an estimated 3600 hectares. It resulted in an evacuation alert for nearby wilderness properties.

Number of Fires

  • Total caused by lightning: 973
  • Total caused by people: 414
  • Coastal: 244
  • Northwest: 141
  • Prince George: 353
  • Kamloops: 459
  • Southeast: 331
  • Cariboo: 323
  • Total: 1,851

The 2012 fire season saw activity that was 20 to 25 percent below average, both in the total number of fires across the province and the amount of hectares burned.

Cooler temperatures and precipitation in the spring through to early July delayed significant fire activity until later in the summer. With a continuing trend of minimal precipitation from August onward, the Fire Danger Rating remained elevated across the province and remained heightened well in to the fall. New fires were being discovered almost daily well in to October.

Throughout the season, the BC Wildfire Service had the opportunity to export personnel and resources to many outside jurisdictions including: Washington, Idaho, Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The BC Wildfire Service also brought in out-of-province crews to assist during periods of heightened activity. A total of 79 personnel came from Saskatchewan, Ontario and Yukon to assist in our wildfire suppression efforts. The province spent approximately $155M on firefighting operations and recovered approximately $8.5M from out-of-province deployments.

Early in the season, the BC Wildfire Service was also able to lend out resources to Emergency Management B.C. to assist with spring flooding throughout the province.

Notable 2012 Fires

Cariboo Fire Centre

  • 406 hectare Big Bar Creek fire, west of Clinton, caused an evacuation order.

Kamloops Fire Centre

  • 200 hectare Trepanier Creek near Peachland; caused an evacuation order.

Prince George Fire Centre

  • 23,830 hectare White Spruce Creek fire, east of Fort Nelson; caused an evacuation order and area restrictions that affected oil and gas personnel in the area. This was the largest single wildfire of the 2012 season.

Number of Fires

  • 700 caused by people.
  • 944 caused by lightning.
  • Coastal: 265
  • Northwest: 110
  • Prince George: 386
  • Kamloops: 460
  • Southeast: 230
  • Cariboo: 193
  • Total: 1,644

The 2011 fire season will go down in history as one of the slowest on record. Cool and wet conditions in the spring and early summer months resulted in minimal fire activity. Record breaking temperatures in late August and early September dried out the province and increased the danger ratings. But the number of fire starts remained low because there was very little lightning activity.

During the season, the BC Wildfire Service was afforded the opportunity to export a record number of 2,073 personnel to out-of-province jurisdictions, including Alberta, Ontario, the Yukon, Alaska, the Northwest Territories, Manitoba, Washington, Texas, and Montana. In previous fire seasons B.C. has been supported by many of these jurisdictions, and this year provided a good opportunity to return the favour.

By the first week of September, fire danger ratings in most areas of the province were high to extreme, and these conditions persisted through until the end of the month. The most notable fire during this time only reached eight hectares in size and was mopped up within a couple days.

Due to the quiet season, the province spent considerably less ($66.7M) on firefighting, and recovered approximately $28.6M from out-of-province deployments.

The number of fires this season was three times below average, while the total area burned was 10 times less than average. Furthermore, 91 per cent of the total hectares burned this year in B.C. were consumed by one fire in the northwest of the province, the Tsigar Lake Fire.

During the fire season, the BC Wildfire Service was also able to lend out resources to other provincial jurisdictions, including Emergency Management B.C. and B.C. Highways.

There were only a handful of notable fires during this fire season. Only one fire, the Bear Creek Park Fire, in West Kelowna caused an evacuation order.

Notable 2011 Fires

Kamloops Fire Centre

  • Eight hectare fire at Bear Creek in west Kelowna; caused the evacuation of approximately 550 people.

Northwest Fire Centre

  • 11,000 hectare fire at Tisigar Lake, south of Yukon border; the largest single fire in the province.

Number of Fires

  • By Cause:
    • 438 caused by people
    • 208 caused by lightning
  • By Fire Centre:
    • Coastal: 90
    • Northwest: 20
    • Prince George: 105
    • Kamloops: 243
    • Southeast: 132
    • Cariboo: 56
  • Total: 646 Fires

The 2010 fire season was somewhat unusual. Due to a dry winter and early spring, it seemed forest conditions were ripe for another devastating season. But then the spring rain started and did not stop until the province was soaked. Hot sunshine in July dried forest fuels quickly, but minimal lightning activity kept fire starts down.

During this time of low fire activity in the province, BC Wildfire Service crews were sent to Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba to assist them with some very significant wildfires. It was a good opportunity for B.C.’s resources to help those who had assisted us in the 2009 season.

But on July 28, everything changed. With fire danger ratings at high to extreme, lightning storms hit the central interior and, in only four days, the number of fires province-wide nearly doubled from 600 to 1,100. Fire crews and officials were kept busy as fires rapidly consumed hectares of forests, forcing numerous evacuations throughout the Cariboo.

Conditions started to calm as mid-August approached, but it was only a brief respite. On August 18 a wind event passed through the central interior, causing significant and unprecedented growth on some fires. Nearly 100,000 hectares (one-third of the entire season’s total) were burned in only 24 hours.

But as quickly as it started, the fire season petered out. By the end of August, only one month since the lightning storm, cooler temperatures and precipitation reduced fire activity. And by the first week of September, all remaining evacuation orders and alerts were rescinded and all out-of-province personnel returned home.

While the total number of fires was less than average, the number of hectares burned was the highest it has been in at least 10 years (three times the average) at approximately 330,000 hectares.

The hardest hit areas were in the central interior (around Williams Lake, through the Chilcotin and the area south of Houston, Burns Lake and Fraser Lake) where very large fires impacted many residents.

During the fire season, BC Wildfire Service resources, contract firefighters and emergency firefighters were used to their full capacity. Over 1,400 personnel assisted from out-of-province, including over 1,100 firefighters. Resources were brought in from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Northwest Territories, the Yukon and the United States.

The 2010 fires have cost approximately $220 million, which makes this season the third most expensive in history.

There were over 100 notable fires during this fire season, and approximately 27 of those were significant interface wildfires, which resulted in 11 evacuation orders and 16 evacuation alerts. Sadly, two airtanker pilots lost their lives in the line of duty.

Notable 2010 Fires

Cariboo Fire Centre

  • The Pelican Lake complex of fires north of Nazko covered a combined area of 35,506 hectares
  • The Meldrum Creek complex of fires covered a combined area of 47,293 hectares
  • The Bull Canyon complex of fires near Alexis Creek covered a combined area of 35,000 hectares.
  • 3,086 hectare fire at Heckman Pass near Tweedsmuir Park; closed Highway 20

Coastal Fire Centre

  • 4,553 hectare fire at Dean River, north of Bella Coola

Kamloops Fire Centre

  • 2,000 hectare fire at Jade Mountain, Yalakom Valley
  • 650 hectare fire at Tweddle Creek, west of Keremeos
  • 130 hectare fire at Mayson Lake, Southeast of Bonaparte Lake

Northwest Fire Centre

  • 40,000 hectare fire at Binta Lake, south of Burns Lake; the largest single fire in the province
  • The Houston complex of four fires southwest of Houston burned a combined 8,500 hectares
  • 35,000 hectare fire at the Cassiar Highway near the Yukon border

Prince George Fire Centre

  • 6,102 hectare fire at Greer Creek, southwest of Vanderhoof
  • 13,087 hectare fire at Tsacha Lake, west of Tweedsmuir Park

Fire season 2009 will go down in history as one of the busiest due to exceptional weather and fire behaviour conditions. The season started early due to above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. As early as May, crews were battling multiple fires of note that threatened communities.

Typical June rains arrived weeks later than usual and below seasonal averages. On July 18, fires broke out in the Glenrosa and Rose Valley communities of West Kelowna, garnishing huge public and media attention. These two fires, combined with the Terrace Mountain fire west of Fintry, led to multiple evacuation orders and alerts. Fortunately, only three structures were lost on the very first day of the Glenrosa fire.

July also saw an abundance of lightning storms leading to other fires of note throughout the province. Temperatures continued to break record highs and little precipitation was received in most areas. As September began, all personnel continued to work hard to contain fires across the Kamloops and Cariboo regions. At a time when the fire season is normally wrapping up, six fires still had people out of their homes or ready to leave at a moment’s notice; the largest –the Lava Canyon fire –was nearly 55,000 hectares and growing.

As fall settled in, cooler temperatures and more precipitation finally came to the central and south interior. By mid-September fire activity slowed, evacuation orders and alerts were rescinded, and crews from out-of-province returned home. Fire season 2009 has been one of the worst in B.C.’'s history, with a record number of fires and total hectares burned well above average. Another record was set in the amount of money spent. The cost of direct firefighting for the season is nearly $400 million, surpassing not only the average fire season price tag of $115.9 million, but also the previous record of most expensive season, which was during Firestorm 2003.

During the fire season, Wildfire Management Branch resources, contract fire fighters and newly trained emergency fire fighters were used to their full capacity. Over 2,500 personnel assisted from out of province, including over 1,800 firefighters. Resources were brought in from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and the United States. For the first time, we also had 25 fire specialists from the State of Victoria, Australia, and six personnel from New Zealand to aid in fire suppression efforts.

There were over 100 notable fires during this fire season: at least 27 caused evacuation orders and at least a dozen more caused evacuation alerts. While the season was long and exhausting, thankfully there was nowhere near the terrible destruction seen in 2003. Sadly, one helicopter pilot lost his life in the line of duty.

Notable 2009 Fires

Cariboo Fire Centre

  • 1,000 hectare fire at 70 mile house; two homes lost.
  • 150 hectare fire at Buffalo Creek, northeast of 100 mile house; two homes lost.
  • 6,618 hectare Kluskus fire, west of Quesnel
  • 66,719 hectare (667 square kilometres) fire at Lava Canyon, in the Chilcotin; largest fire of the season, and led to evacuation orders and alerts.
  • 20,925 hectare (209 square kilometres) fire at Kelly Creek, in Edgehills Provincial Park, 20 km southwest of Clinton; two structures were lost.

Coastal Fire Centre

  • 30 hectare Blackcomb Mountain fire; caused an evacuation of the mountain.
  • 850 and 823 hectare Pemberton Meadow complex fires; led to evacuation orders and area closures.
  • 368 hectare fire at Nuxalk Mountain; evacuated the community of Bella Coola

Kamloops Fire Centre

  • 400 hectare fire at Glenrosa, west Kelowna; three structures lost.
  • 200 hectare fire Rose Valley Dam, west Kelowna; led to multiple evacuations.
  • 9,277 hectare fire, Terrace Mountain, west of Fintry; multiple communities evacuated.
  • 8,045 hectare Tyaughton Lake fire, north of Goldbridge; multiple communities evacuated.
  • 3,696 hectare Mount McLean fire, west of Lillooet; led to evacuations and local state of emergency.
  • 1,597 hectare fire at Intlpam, between Lytton and Lillooet.
  • 2,042 Hell Creek fire, in the Yalakom Valley; led to evacuation orders
  • 3,025 hectare fire at Brookmere, 42 km south of Merritt; led to evacuation order for community of Brookmere.
  • 1,753 hectare Seton Portage fire, southwest of Lillooet; three structures lost.
  • 7,014 hectare fire at Big Dog Mountain, Yalakom Valley.
  • 6,045 hectare Little Dog Mountain fire, Yalakom Valley.
  • 625 hectare Scottie Creek fire, 20 km north of Cache Creek; led to evacuation.

Prince George Fire Centre

  • 23,182 hectare fire at Junction of Smith and Liard River; second largest fire of the season, which closed the Alaska Highway and caused the evacuation of three small communities.

The 2003 fire season was one of the most catastrophic in British Columbia's recorded history. Due to an extended drought in the southern half of the province, forest firefighters faced conditions never seen before in Canada.

Lightning strikes, human carelessness, and arson all contributed to igniting nearly 2,500 fires involving more than 10,000 firefighters and support personnel and burning more than 265,000 hectares (ha) at a cost of $375 million. The extreme volatility of the dry forests, compounded by the province's difficult terrain, created unprecedented fire behaviour and made fire suppression almost impossible. The ongoing fires put extreme pressure on human and equipment resources and the daily outbreak of new fires (218 fires on one day alone) added an even greater burden on suppression teams.

While fire crews often fought uncontrolled fires that travelled at more than seven km/hr, and leapt several kilometres over highways, waterways and fire breaks, human safety remained a priority and not a single firefighter was lost on the fireline. In addition, there were no civilian lives lost nor any civil unrest associated with the largest evacuation in B.C. history, which involved more than 30,000 people.

Tragically, two air tanker crew members and a helicopter pilot lost their lives and one person was seriously injured.

2003 Notable Fires

Okanagan Mountain Park

The Okanagan Mountain Park fire was the most significant interface wildfire event in BC history. The fire's final size was 25,600 hectares. Much of BC was affected by the fire but the communities of Naramata and Kelowna suffered the largest effect when the blaze caused the evacuation of 33,050 people (4,050 of these people were also evacuated for a second time) and 238 homes were lost or damaged. The fire also claimed 12 wooden trestles and damaged two other steel trestles in the historic Myra Canyon.


The McLure fire caused the devastating loss or damage of 72 homes and nine businesses. Due to this fire, 3,800 people were evacuated (880 of these people were also evacuated for a second time) from the small communities of McLure, Barriere and Louis Creek. The fire reached a final size of 26,420 hectares


*2003 is included due to it being one of the most severe fire seasons on record in B.C.