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Water Today Title November 12, 2018

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Update 2018/9/7
Forest Fires


HOW CLIMATE CHANGE IS INCREASING THE LILELYHOOD OF FOREST FIRES



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By Michelle Moore

In effect since August 14, British Columbia has renewed it's province wide state of emergency due to the fires. This year the province has had 2038 fires, of which 37 remain wildfires of note, defined as ones that threaten public safety.

There are still a number of standing evacuation orders and road closures in effects and poor air quality continues to be an issue.

Nechako Lakes School District was forced to delay the start of the school year to coincide with the forecasted end date of the evacuation order for the area.

Though the number of fires has decreased, the British Columbia Wildfire Service said Monday "the Kamloops Fire Centre would like to remind everyone that even though conditions are changing and temperatures have been cooler, there is still potential for new wildfires to start."

A total of 12 985 square kilometres have burned so far this year, surpassing last years total of 12 160 square kilometres, the worst in the province' history.

Dr. Uldis Silins is a hydrologist at the University of Alberta and co leads the University of Alberta's Southern Rockies Watershed Project, aimed at exploring the impacts of natural disturbances by wildfire on watersheds, streams and rivers.

Dr. Silins said "as our climate has started to change and our burning conditions more severe, we are seeing an increase in the number of severe fires worldwide in fire affected regions, and certainly in Western Canada."

He explained that despite comprehensive forest management, there is a lot of biomass in Canadian forests and when matched with long streaks of hot, dry weather that can create the perfect conditions for wildfires.

"Climate change is producing more severe burning conditions for longer which increases the likelihood of having more severe fires occurring on landscape. The end result is that some of those fires are going to be larger and burn with much more severity than we have seen historically," said Dr. Silins.

In 2016, fires in Fort McMurray took over two months to get under control; 88 000 people were evacuated and 589 617 hectares were burned. The Fort McMurray fires are considered the most expensive natural disaster in Canada's history.

Dr. Silins said fire seasons are now longer in Western Canada and the United States. He said, "in Alberta for example, our fire season is already 30 to 40 days longer than it historically used to be. In Western U.S., there fire season has now grown 60-70 days longer than ever was the case before."

People should avoid travelling in certain areas as smoke and rolling debris from the fires can reduce visibility and impair driver's safety. British Columbia Emergency Management continues to provide up to date information on fires, road closures and evacuation orders.

m.moore@watertoday.ca








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