Over the Easter long weekend, while many families were hunting for eggs and enjoying fantastic weather, the Seton Lake Volunteer Fire Department (SLVFD) was called to attend to an out-of-control fire, marking an early start to the 2022 wildfire season in B.C.
The April 16 blaze began as a controlled burn above the community of Shalalth, according to the SLFVD.
Seton Portage and Shalalth are small, predominantly First Nations communities in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s Area B, home to about 500 people. The communities are located about 106 kilometres northwest of Whistler at the meeting point of Anderson and Seton Lakes.
The SLVFD responded in full force when it was determined the controlled burn had gotten out of hand, said volunteer firefighter Terrance Kosikar.
“We had 22 of us show up ... it's a 20-minute billy goat up the side of the mountain to get there. And then we congregated there, and it was game time,” Kosikar said, adding that the blaze was fuelled in part by heavy winds.
“The fact that it lit up like that, it should have never happened [at] this time of year. I've been a firefighter for Whistler Fire Rescue for seven years and been a member up here volunteering for 15 years, and I've never seen anything like that in April.”
The British Columbia Wildfire Service (BCWS) said the fire was quickly dealt with by local crews.
“The majority of spring wildfires we see are caused by human activity,” said Kamloops Fire Information Officer Ayden Coray. “So it's a great reminder for everyone to be extremely cautious with their fire use when participating in activities outdoors.”
While the fire was relatively small at only 8.5 hectares, it could be a worrying sign of things to come. According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, this coming summer is expected to be another hot one, with above-average temperatures expected across British Columbia and the Sea to Sky. According to the BCWS, 71 wildfires had sprung up across the province as of April 25.
In preparation for the coming fire season, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s Areas C and D have both adopted new Community Wildfire Resiliency Plans, while plans are still being created for Area A (the Bridge River Region) and Area B, which surrounds the Village of Lillooet.
Kosikar wants to remind people that every person can help with the fight against wildfires. “There's lots of things people can do to prevent their fires from taking off, their houses from burning down, [and] the whole Sea to Sky corridor from lighting up,” he said.
“That actually starts now, which means raking your property, all the dead leaves and everything off a bit. Getting stuff off of your roofs, moving your jerry cans and propane tanks away from your property, your house. There's many things that we can be doing to prepare for [the coming fire season].”
Find more tips and stay up to date on the wildfire situation in B.C. at bcwildfire.ca.