One of the most significant fire-related issues in British Columbia's forests is mountain pine beetle infestation. These beetles, also commonly called bark beetles, kill trees in large numbers and create a large amount of dry, dead wood that poses a significant fire hazard.
Forest fires are a natural occurrence and play an important role in the forest's cycle of life by clearing out dead growth, bringing nutrients back to the soil and keeping insect populations in check. However, as of 2015, these fires keep getting worse because some underlying conditions have changed. Part of the problem has been human suppression of wildfires even in remote areas, which allowed years of flammable materials to accumulate. This makes fires burn more quickly and travel further.
Bark beetles are native to North America, but their numbers have increased significantly, and they attack more mature trees. The increase in numbers is largely because winters have been unusually warm, which does not kill enough of the beetles and allows them to complete their reproductive cycles more quickly.
Warmer winters also increase fire danger because of generally dry conditions and lack of snowpack. British Columbia's forests rely on snow accumulation to feed streams and keep plants healthy, so a lower snowpack leads to drier conditions earlier in the year.
British Columbia's fire restrictions and laws vary depending on the specific conditions, so people planning to have campfires or other burns should check with their local fire department or regional district to determine current fire prohibitions.