In my many years living on Vancouver Island, I have never seen a summer like this one before.
The first heat waves that struck in June, which many had begun referring to as “June-uary” in recent years as the month had become known for its cool and damp conditions, was the hottest I’ve ever experienced, and that includes numerous trips to the Caribbean over the years.
The heat was almost palpable at times, like you could just reach out and grab it, and it made for many uncomfortable nights for the many people in the area who, unfortunately, don’t have air conditioning.
My nephew, who recently purchased an up-scale new house, decided to delay installing an expensive air exchanger last spring and was forced to the small crawl space under the house with his family to sleep at night during the successive heat waves we experienced since then as it was the coolest part of the home.
Fortunately, the heat has ebbed in recent days and the temperatures have returned to what we consider normal for this time of year, to the great relief for many.
But there still has been no meaningful precipitation since early June, and the continuing dry conditions are taking a toll on gardens, crops and the forests in the Cowichan Valley and southern Vancouver Island.
We’ve been lucky so far here on the Island not to have a multitude of wildfires burning out of control like those that are devastating the Interior of the province, where they are burning homes and forcing the evacuations of thousands of people.
The images of red, smoke-filled skies from the Interior look almost hellish, and the air quality has become abysmal.
So far, thanks to mostly easterly winds this summer, we’ve been pretty much spared the onslaught of smoke from those fires, except for two days when a light smoke covering descended on us from across the Salish Sea before being quickly blown away again.
But that wildfire last week on Mount Hayes, near Ladysmith, was a wake-up call for everyone in the region.
Helicopters, air tankers, heavy equipment and ground crews had to fight for days to contain that blaze, which grew to more than 73 hectares before it was finally contained.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District was forced to declare a state of local emergency in response to the wildfire, applying to Electoral Area H and a small portion of Area G.
An evacuation order was also issued for a Fortis B.C.-owned property on Ninatti Road.
You could see the smoke from the wildfire from as far away as Cobble Hill to the south and Parksville to the north.
It was frightening to watch as the smoke drifted for kilometres up in the air, blocking the sun and choking people immediately downwind of it.
It seemed we were getting a little taste of what much of the rest of the province has been experiencing since June.
The fire danger on most of Vancouver Island and parts of the Coastal Fire Centre is currently ranked at high to extreme, similar to ratings in portions of B.C.’s five other fire centres, so we have to be careful that what is happening in the Interior is not repeated here due to an aberrant cigarette butt thrown into the dry bush, or a campfire carelessly left unattended.
It’s been an unusual summer, but it’s exactly what many have been predicting for years as the climate crisis deepens.
This may be the new normal folks, and we all must prepare accordingly.