The latest update from the BC Wildfire Service puts the number of active fires in the province at 159, including 17 new fires since Sunday.

Twenty are fires of note and 15 of them are currently considered a threat to communities.

Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek says the Service has 3,000 people working for them – including forestry contractors, support staff and 450 out of province personnel – as well as more than 200 aircraft.

“We have responded to 657 fires since April 1st of this year, burning an estimated 188,000 hectares and costing, at current estimate, roughly $90 million,” Skrepnek says.

That puts 2017 above the average – at least in terms of area burned.

“If you look at the last 10 years, the average would be a little over 154,000 so it’s fair to say we’ve already exceeded our average for season-ending hectares and we’re only about halfway through July.”

While yesterday’s weather was calmer than Saturday, Skrepnek says forecasted conditions could be challenging

“There is some potential, going into Wednesday, for some instability, some lightning in a couple of areas of the province, particularly the Chilcotin, southern interior and the south-east. It’s not clear yet whether that’s going to be coming with any rain at this point.”

50 personnel from Australia are expected to arrive in Vancouver on Wednesday. That group includes officers and technical specialists and will be deployed throughout BC. According to the BC Wildfire Service:

“They could remain in B.C. for up to 38 days.

The Australians’ expertise will help maintain the BC Wildfire Service’s high success rate for containing new fires. They also will augment the response to existing fires by allowing B.C. personnel to take mandatory days off so they can begin another cycle of fire suppression operations.

British Columbia has fostered a mutually beneficial wildfire management relationship with Australia for over 10 years and has a resource-sharing agreement in place with the State of Victoria. This agreement allows for the exchange of personnel, knowledge, skills, equipment, technology and mutual support in the event of an emergency. The cost of bringing in the Australians will be covered by the Province of B.C.”