The Rim Fire in Vancouver

Vancouver’s air quality affected as several wildfires rage, with no containment

A water hose is seen drying atop a line of trees in the city’s seawall, where residents have faced the threat of the Rim fire in recent days. The fire burned through more than 100,000 acres and is just about 1% contained as of Monday evening. (The Associated Press) November 19, 2016, Vancouver, BC

“So, I’m gonna ask you again. ‘Have you ever been in a fight before?'” reads the front of a single-page flyer for one of the city’s many volunteer firefighting groups.

Answering yes, I stepped deeper into the charred forest. A single figure walked briskly through the maze before disappearing into the darkness. She was on her phone, recording, as is the city’s unwritten law, any smoke she sees.

My eyes stung as I walked up and down the line of fire.

And then things got worse.

A massive fire started about 2:30 p.m. in the city’s east end Sunday afternoon, threatening as many as 1,500 structures and injuring eight people, according to the Vancouver Fire Department. The fire has not yet been fully contained.

In the last 24 hours, the city has had to deal with 15 fires, most of them small, and one that was “large enough to swallow the whole city,” said Dan McTeague, the fire chief.

That’s an ongoing problem the city has been dealing with for decades, he said.

“As long as we continue to rely on just self-help and just the generosity of the community, we’re going to continue to have the problem.”

The reason firefighters are not doing everything, McTeague said, is because they are being overwhelmed.

“We don’t know where the fires are going to get started.”

In 2016, there were 20,416 fires across the city, according to the Vancouver Fire Department, a slight increase to 21,834 in 2015, when there were also 20,416 fires.

There were 24,974 fires in 2015 and 23,081 last year, a 9% decrease from 2016.

The most recent numbers are the most accurate since 2000

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