Smoke on the water no hit in B.C.

STRAIT SCOOP: If the fire season seems earlier and more severe than usual, it is

Good news for those who believe camping is just not camping without the experience of some genuine wood smoke:

Looks like you’re back in action.

Thanks to the wind-borne donation wafting from Pemberton and points throughout mainland B.C., you can enjoy the backwoods of Vancouver Island and get that genuine campfire experience without so much as lighting a match.

OK, not so much of a laugh. But for some real misery, you need only look at the long-term projection for this summer’s fire conditions.

If the fire season seems earlier and more severe than usual, that’s because it is. Those who have followed the dropping levels of our reservoirs and rivers already know about the lack of snow runoff and spring rains.

Continued scarcity of rainfall, combined with high temperatures, have turned the greater portion of B.C. into a tinderbox — and the hot, dry conditions are only expected to persist.

Granted, the smog that has alternately drifted through or stopped to blanket Campbell River since Sunday is the result of fires across the strait. And a number of those have been caused by lightning strikes.

Yet more than 40 per cent of B.C. wildfires are human-caused, according to the Ministry of Environment, and Vancouver Island is getting its share of them.

A blaze on Dog Mountain, suspected to be human caused, is providing Port Alberni with its own delightful red sunrises and sunsets, and has resulted in the evacuation of cabins accessible only by boat from Sproat Lake.

And a fire that broke out on the edge of Port Hardy last Friday led to a 48-hour evacuation of residents on two streets in the town before they were allowed to return under a mere evacuation alert. As of Monday the fire remained just 20 per cent contained.

An open fire ban has been established for virtually the entire island, except for the sliver of “fog zone” around Cape Scott on its northern tip. But that hasn’t stopped people from reverting to old habits.

Jeff Aoki, making a routine fire patrol out of Port McNeill for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources over the weekend, came across a couple just preparing to light a pile of charcoal briquettes directly on the forest floor at Bonanza Lake.

“I figured that with this fire ban in place it would be a non eventful day on fire patrol,” Aoki shared on social media. “The husband was literally flicking his lighter when I pulled up, and the briquettes were drenched with fire starter.”

Campfires and carelessly tossed butts are not the only causes of wildfires started by humans. The use of ATVs and other machinery in the woods at a time like this comes with risks every user should weigh and mitigate.

When parts of Vancouver Island were slapped with a Level 3 drought rating in mid-June, it was the earliest such occurrence on record. Just a few weeks later, we’re at Level 4, the province’s highest drought rating.

Meanwhile, we continue to make the best of the situation. Despite a wildfire smoke advisory issued Sunday afternoon by MOE and Island Health, residents could still be seen Monday frolicking in the sands and waters of Storries Beach, or walking, jogging or cycling along the Seawalk in Willow Point, even as the haze of Pemberton obscured the usual view of the mainland in the distance.

In other words, it could be worse.

And, if we don’t pay attention to our own actions, it will be.