The 2023 wildfire season in British Columbia has officially surpassed the 2018 season as the most destructive ever recorded according to area burned.
Statistics from the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) show wildfires have burned more than 14,100 square kilometres of land this year, breaking the record of just over 13,500 square kilometres set in 2018.
The record fell after a weekend that showed a large uptick in fire activity, with the Canadian Armed Forces now assisting the BCWS with hundreds of fires across the province.
More than 390 fires were burning in B.C. as of 10 p.m. PT Monday, most of them in central and northeastern parts of the province. Just over 20 of those are considered “wildfires of note,” which means they are particularly visible or pose a threat to public safety.
They include the “aggressive” Young Creek fire that exploded in size over the weekend and cut off highway access for the Central Coast community of Bella Coola.
Highway 20 remains closed due to the wildfire, according to DriveBC at 10 p.m. PT Monday.
More than 70 emergency alerts and orders were in place across the province on Monday.
An evacuation alert means residents should prepare to evacuate their homes, possibly with little to no notice. An evacuation order means a resident should leave immediately.
The southeast has also seen an uptick in fire activity.
The Canadian Rockies International Airport north of Cranbrook cancelled flights on Monday due to the St. Mary’s River wildfire, which led to the tactical evacuation of residents in a nearby First Nation.
On Monday, the B.C. Wildfire Service said a blaze 15 kilometres north of West Kelowna, B.C. was highly visible to residents in the area, and it also resulted in an evacuation alert for 18 properties later that night.
On Monday, the B.C. Coroners Service issued a public safety bulletin after a nine-year-old boy died after an asthma attack that his parents say was made worse by wildfire smoke.
Special weather statements warning of smoke continue to cover most of eastern B.C.
B.C.’s drought bulletin also continues to show widespread drought conditions, with the fire danger rating ranked at high to extreme across much of the province.
Four of the 34 basins the province monitors are ranked at the most severe level of drought. That includes all of Vancouver Island, the Bulkley-Lakes basin and the Fort Nelson basin.