‘We’re off to a fast start’: wildfire season is here

Northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons was working away on a story about proactive solutions to fighting wildfires when, well, fire season arrived
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Parker Lake wildfire, near Fort Nelson, B.C.

Not all fire is bad. 

That’s something northwest B.C. reporter Matt Simmons has been exploring: how fire interacts with communities, wildlife and landscapes, and how Indigenous cultural burns can be part of the solution after decades of colonial fire suppression practices.

But then, on Mother’s Day weekend, headlines proclaimed a frightening and early start to the wildfire season. A fire near Fort Nelson First Nation in British Columbia had grown in size, eventually forcing well over 4,000 residents to evacuate. On Sunday morning, Matt’s phone lit up with a text from the nation’s Chief Sharleen Gale, who wanted to alert as many people as possible: “Need support with this while I go door-to-door getting the rest of my community to evacuate.”

Matt knew he needed to jump on the latest developments.

“The plan was, and still is, to bring stories to light about solutions employed early in the wildfire season — partnerships between the BC Wildfire Service and First Nations that employ cultural burning practices,” Matt told me. “But it’s really unsettling to have to drop that for a bit as fires approach the edge of the town.”

It’s not just northeast B.C. that’s on fire this early. Matt and Prairies reporter Drew Anderson took an extensive look at the wildfires currently spreading across Western Canada.

A GIF of a paper map of Western Canada that is burning.
Western Canada is on fire — again

“We’re off to a fast start,” one expert said, noting how fires from last year’s devastating, grim wildfire season didn’t die down over the winter. But there’s still a glimmer of hope, he told Drew: “It’s more active than average, but it’s not close to 2023.”

The expert voices on such an early start are emphatic that climate change is playing a huge role: a hotter climate turns much of the tinder-dry forests into ideal conditions for these infernos to erupt.

As wildfire season unfolds, our team at The Narwhal will be busy zooming in to tell on-the-ground stories about the people fighting blazes, the challenges ahead and the solutions that cultural burns can offer in the ongoing battle against devastating wildfires.

Take care and stay safe,

Karan Saxena
Audience engagement editor
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What we’re reading

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