Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations - Wildfire Management Branch

Very Large Fires


Large wildfires in British Columbia include:

In 2010 the Pelican Lake complex of fires, north of Nazko, covered a combined area of 35,506 hectares (355 square kilometres). These blazes caused evacuation orders and alerts.

In 2010 due to dry conditions and strong winds the Binta Lake fire, south of Burns Lake, grew from 7,000 hectares to about 35,000 hectares in a 12-hour period. At its final size of 40,000 hectares (400 square kilometres) this was the single largest blaze of 2010, and resulted in evacuation orders and alerts.

The Meldrum Creek complex of fires in 2010 covered a combined area of 47,293 hectares (472 square kilometres), and led to numerous evacuation orders and alerts.

In 2010 the Bull Canyon complex of fires near Alexis Creek covered a combined area of 35,000 hectares (350 square kilometres), and caused evacuation orders and alerts.

In 2009, a 23,182 hectare (232 square kilometres) fire at the Junction of Smith and Liard River temporarily closed the Alaska Highway and caused the evacuation of three small communities.

Lava Canyon, in the Chilcotin, saw the largest fire of the 2009 season at 66,719 hectare (667 square kilometres), and led to evacuation orders and alerts.

In Edgehills Provincial Park, 20 km southwest of Clinton, the 2009 Kelly Creek fire grew to 20,925 hectares (209 square kilometres) and resulted in evacuation orders and alerts. Two structures were lost during the blaze.

The Okanagan Mountain Park fire, during the 2003 fire season, was the most significant interface wildfire event in BC history. The fire's final size was 25,600 hectares. Much of BC was affected by the fire but the communities of Naramata and Kelowna suffered the largest effect when the blaze caused the evacuation of 33,050 people (4,050 of these people were also evacuated for a second time) and 238 homes were lost or damaged. The fire also claimed 12 wooden trestles and damaged two other steel trestles in the historic Myra Canyon.

The McLure fire in 2003 caused the devastating loss or damage of 72 homes and nine businesses. Due to this fire, 3,800 people were evacuated (880 of these people were also evacuated for a second time) from the small communities of McLure, Barriere and Louis Creek. The fire reached a final size of 26,420 hectares.

One of British Columbia's worst fires, the Salmon Arm fire occurred in 1998. It damaged over 6,000 hectares, caused the evacuation of approximately 7,000 people, destroyed 40 buildings, and cost over $10 million to extinguish.

Also known as the Garnet fire, the Penticton fire occurred in 1994. Over 5,500 hectares were burned, over 3,500 people were evacuated and 18 homes and structures were lost. The fact that the fire occurred in an interface area increased the severity of the damage.

The Swiss fire of 1983 started on May 29th and wasn't under control until early June. The fire started south of Houston and due to dry conditions and strong winds spread at a very fast rate. In approximately 7.5 hours the fire grew to 6,900 hectares, which is an average rate of spread of 920 hectares per hour. The fire's final size was 18,208 hectares, and resulted in the evacuation of approximately 50 families and the loss of seven residences.

The Eg fire occurred in 1982. 182,725 hectares burned near the Liard River/Alaska Highway area.

The Tee fire occurred in 1971. 110,419 hectares burned near the Liard River/Alaska Highway area.

The Kech fire occurred in 1958. 225,920 hectares burned in the Kechika Valley, a tributary of the Liard River.

The Wisp fire occurred in 1950. The fire burned from north of the Fort St. John area into Alberta along the Chinchaga River. Total area burned was 1,400,000 hectares. The B.C. portion was 90,000 hectares.

On June 13, 1886, fire destroyed most of Vancouver, which had only been incorporated three months earlier. A clearing fire blazed out of control and in one hour only two of the 400 original buildings were left standing. Due to the fire it was decided that replacement contruction should be of brick stone or cast iron.

On September 17, 1868, Barkerville was destroyed by fire and 116 homes were destroyed. The fire was caused by a miner trying to kiss one of the girls in a saloon. The ensuing struggle dislodged a stove pipe, setting the canvas ceiling on fire.

Large wildfires in North America include:

1881 Eastern Michigan. Fire caused by land clearing, slash burning and lightning. Burned over 400,000 hectares and killed 169 people.
1871 Peshtigo, Wisconsin and Michigan. People-caused fire due to land clearing and slash burning. Burned in forest and extensive slash. Burned over 1,011,750 hectares and over 1,500 people died.
1865 Silverton, Oregon. Fire burned over 400,600 hectares.
1825 Miramachi, New Brunswick and Maine. People-caused fire due to land clearing and slash burning. Over 1,214,000 hectares of uncut forest and spruce budworm-killed stands were burned. 160 people were killed.