Officials urge not to get complacent with BC wildfire season set to continue into fall

BC Wildfire Service officials say lightning activity over the weekend could lead to more wildfire starts, and that despite a calmer year overall, the wildfire season will continue until ‘in September.

The wildfire season was much less disruptive in 2022 compared to 2021, which saw many large wildfires and thousands of people evacuated from their homes at the same time.

Around this time last year, wildfire officials said more than 8,700 square kilometers of land had been burned, compared to just under 400 square kilometers this year.

However, a few weeks of drier weather and an increase in lightning strikes have sparked more than 390 new fires over the past week, according to the Forest Fire Department.

With lightning on Friday and more thunderstorms expected this weekend, officials say it’s possible more fires will break out in the coming days and the wildfires will last through September.

« What is a real deciding factor [in severity] it’s the amount of precipitation that will be accompanied by those lightning strikes,” said Erika Berg, fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service.

« What we’re also seeing is what we call persistent fires, which is where a lightning strike can hit the landscape. And it’s not really detectable…until temperatures are rising and there are strong winds. »

More than 70% of wildfires in British Columbia this year have been started by lightning.

Berg says the spike in new fire starts can be attributed to a wetter-than-usual June and a prolonged heat wave in late July and August.

Bobby Sekhon, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said weather patterns mean the wildfire season will likely extend into the fall.

« We haven’t really had many opportunities to recover from precipitation or cooler spells and much of the interior has been quite dry, » he said.

« Anytime we have a long stretch of hot, dry weather followed by thunderstorms and lightning, there’s this threat of wildfires. »

Notable wildfires have been downgraded

Currently, only three notable wildfires are burning in all of British Columbia. A notable forest fire is one that is particularly visible or poses a threat to public safety.

Two of those fires – the Briggs Creek and Mount Docking fires in southeastern British Columbia – were downgraded from « notable wildfire » status on Thursday, with Berg saying there were no fires. expected major growth and that they were « not really at risk anymore ».

Additionally, there are currently no evacuation orders or alerts in place in British Columbia due to wildfires. Earlier this season, widespread orders had to be issued due to the Lytton Creek Fire and the Keremeos Creek Fire.

Despite the positive overall outlook, Berg says she wants people not to get complacent and that British Columbians should be prepared for fires year-round.

« This anticipation of our wildfire season extending into mid-September, late September, is not so abnormal for us, » Berg said.

“But the current state of our environment and our climate, there is this potential that we have earlier fire seasons [like 2021] and that these fire seasons extend longer than we may have seen historically. »

Most of the province is still at high to moderate fire risk and large open fires are banned across the province. Campfires are also prohibited in the Coastal, Kamloops and Southeast regions.

Berg says residents should consider fireproofing their homes and consider government-provided funding to keep them and their properties safe.

She adds that they must continue to observe fire bans, report any new fires they see and follow the instructions of their local authorities in the event of an emergency.


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