By Monica Blaylock
9 July 2015
(Motherboard) – Vancouver Island is home to the wettest place in North America—and right now it's on fire.
Drought has plunged the the Port Alberni-Clayoquot Region, part of Canada’s only rainforest, into one of the worst dry seasons on record. Forest fires are spreading quickly through sun-scorched woods that, in the past, have received almost seven metres—or 22 feet—of precipitation per year.
The fire, which has been burning since last Saturday on Dog Mountain near Sproat Lake, has reached over 245 hectares and is still spreading. The region is also home to Henderson Lake; just 50 kilometres south of the blaze, it is, on average, North America's wettest place.
So far 35 firefighters and four helicopters have been deployed to help stop the fire, which British Columbia Wildfire Service suspect was human caused.
The region around Port Alberni receives most of its precipitation in the winter and typically goes through a dry spell in July and August. But this year, the dry season started two months early, leaving the area in the middle of a drought with half the summer left to go.
Those conditions are perfect for large forest fires.
“We have a lot of fuel to burn because these forests are big and old. Some places haven’t seen fire in in over 150 years,” said Richard Hebda, curator of botany and geology at the Royal British Columbia Museum. He added that the drought-stricken forests of Vancouver Island are extra susceptible to fire due to a lack of controlled burns in recent years which usually help remove extra brush from the forest floor.
In a not-so-surprising turn of events, climate change is likely to blame. As Arctic temperatures continue to rise in the North, the Pacific coast can bank on hotter, longer, and more dangerous dry seasons becoming the new normal. [more]