The BC Wildfire Service is preparing for this year’s wildfire season with COVID-19 restrictions.

According to Minister of Forests, Doug Donaldson, the BC Wildfire Service has increased the number of air tankers and helicopters to fight wildfires.

In total, there will be 20 tankers and eight bird dog aircraft.

Donaldson added with the more additional supports the BC Wildfire Service can deliver 15% more fire retardant capacity compared to 2019 and 150% more skimmer capacity.

According to Superintendent for Communications with B.C. Wildfire Service Jody Lucius, there has been an increase in sanitization protocols.

When staff is traveling in vehicles, helicopters, and planes the B.C. Wildfire Service is providing non- medical masks and giving guidance on their use, the new equipment has also been provided and has moved away from the use of multi-person tents, provided 5 person crew camp kits and have created contingency plans for critical support functions.

Donaldson said even though the wildfire season is off to a normal start the province must remain vigilant.

“I’m confident that with these measures in place the more than 1,700 BC Wildfire Service firefighters and support staff in place for the 2020 fire season will be able to operate safely during this pandemic,” he said.

Earlier this year, the BC Wildfire Service implemented a prohibition for category 2 and category 3 open burning.

Lucius said the BC Wildfire Service has also prohibited resource management open fires and several other activities.

“We’ve done this in order to minimize the amount of smoke in the area and also to reduce the need for the BC Wildfire Service employees and other first responders to respond to preventable and unnecessary human-caused wildfires,” she said.

Lucius added the province is below the average of wildfires for this time of year.

As of April, the BC Wildfire Service has responded to 139 wildfires where normally there would 172.

As of Thursday (May 21), there are currently 5 wildfires and they are all considered under control.