‘Deep’ drought conditions in B.C. persist as province approaches wildfire season

The B.C. government announced its plan to prepare for the upcoming wildfire and drought season Monday. This includes streamlining training for Emergency Support Service Responders and hiring more firefighters. Angela Bower reports.

B.C. is expecting an early start to the wildfire season, with underlying drought conditions and the likelihood of a warmer-and-drier-than-usual spring on the horizon.

The province says while strong El Nino conditions are “fading,” the residual heat in the Pacific Ocean continues to support the forecast for warmer and drier than normal conditions into spring.

The government says it’s “taking several early steps to prepare,” including working with local governments and First Nations.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ Listen to CityNews 1130 LIVE now!

Officials note the conditions that are expected this spring and through the summer are a direct byproduct of the climate crisis.

“We are facing a reality that extreme weather events are becoming more regular and more challenging year over year. Droughts threaten the water that we need to drink, the water we need to grow our food, and keep our fish, salmon, and animals, and the environment healthy,” Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen said Monday.

Wildfire preparedness and lookahead

According to current forecasts, the B.C. government is anticipating what could be “an active spring-wildfire season,” due to ongoing “deep drought conditions.”

The province says forecasts indicate until there’s “significant and sustained rain,” the risk of fires “will remain elevated.”

The B.C. government says it has “enhanced wildfire preparedness and support” for people who are displaced by fires, as part of ongoing workd being done by the Premier’s Expert Task Force on Emergencies. The taskforce was created following last year’s record-breaking wildfire season to make recommendations based on a review of what happened in 2023.

Other measures include incorporating advanced technologies, increasing resources for the BC Wildfire Services, and streamlining training for Emergency Support Services staff.

“Last year’s wildfire season was the worst in our province’s history and we know how incredibly difficult it was for everyone,” Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston said. “Our top priority is keeping people safe, which is why we continue to take significant action to prevent and prepare for wildfires as we head into spring and summer. We know the impacts of climate change are arriving faster than predicted. We will keep actioning the recommendations from the expert task force to make sure we are ready for wildfires when and where they happen.”

Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Bowinn Ma says bringing governments together with emergency partners help ensure all levels “are as prepared as possible for whatever might come.”

There are 98 wildfires burning in B.C. as of March 18. Some of these fires have been burning since last summer.

The province says there have been seven wildfire starts in B.C. since the beginning of the year.

Last year, there were about 2.84 million hectares burned in wildfires in B.C., with hundreds of homes destroyed or damaged, the province adds. Nearly 49,000 peopel were forced to evacuate their homes, while 137,000 were placed on alert.

The province reiterates the majority of spring wildfires are human-caused, and is urging people to take caution with outdoor activities.


Officials note that, as of March 1, the average snowpack in B.C. was at 66 per cent of normal. While this may lessen the risk of flood hazard in some parts of the province, people are still encouraged to be prepared for extreme weather. British Columbians are also reminded to conserve water as much as they can.

“Many communities experienced severe drought conditions last summer. The potential for drought conditions this year is very real and we are taking steps to help people prepare,” said Cullen. “We have boosted community emergency grants, water infrastructure and supports for farmers and ranchers, and we will keep finding ways to support people, communities, businesses and wildlife in the face of drought.”

B.C. is experiencing "deep drought" conditions heading into the spring wildfire season, according to the province.
B.C. is experiencing “deep drought” conditions heading into the spring wildfire season, according to the province. (Courtesy BC Gov)

The province says it is providing communities with resources and tools to support “water-scarcity response plans,” as well as other drought-mitigation protocols.

As part of this work, B.C. says local governments and First Nations will receive updates on drought conditions, as well as a long-term weather outlook.

“If required, the province will reimburse local governments and First Nations for eligible expenses related to the costs of transporting drinking water and desalinization,” the province adds.

At an earlier news conference announcing $80 million to help farmers cope with drought, Premier David Eby said the province “can’t afford to be subtle” when it comes to climate change.

“The climate here in B.C. is changing really rapidly,” he said.

“We are seeing records set for everything from drought to snowfall to heat and what we are hearing from experts is that this summer might be a very difficult one.”

With files from The Canadian Press

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today