‘High hazard’: Dry conditions, lack of rain spikes Okanagan-Shuswap wildfire risk

The Kamloops Fire Centre, which oversees the Okanagan-Shuswap, is showing elevated levels of fire fuel buildup. (B.C. Wildfire Service)
Fire danger rating throughout the province is high, including the hot and dry Okanagan-Shuswap region. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

With fire season now in full swing, the B.C. Wildfire Service’s July forecast is showing a drier and hotter summer which points towards more fires.

The forecast shows Northern B.C. received relatively normal levels of precipitation in June, but Southern B.C. was much drier than usual.

“By the end of the month, the Southern Interior only received 30% of normal June rainfall,” the report states.

“Temperatures climbed steadily throughout the month, culminating with a historic heatwave that affected the entire province.”

The heat and the dry conditions led to an increased fire risk and resulted in large fires in the Central Interior and Northeastern B.C.

The Okanagan and southern Cariboo regions especially are “showing very high hazard,” stated the Wildfire Service’s report.Significant rain is needed to mitigate the risk in those areas, but weather forecasts show nothing but sun for the time being.

Burning conditions across the province are three to four weeks ahead of schedule. Grass and other surface fuels have dried up and are now “well-cured,” contributing to the mid-summer fire behaviour.

The heat wave, dry fuel conditions and lack of precipitation also do not bode well — the Wilfire Service said these conditions have helped create an environment for substantial fire growth. More wildfire activity is expected well into July, with much of the Okanagan and other parts of Southern B.C. are showing high levels of fire fuel buildup, which could lead to more volatile fires.

“… Select areas within the Kamloops Fire Centre are experiencing record moisture deficits.

“Widespread thunderstorms recently delivered more lightning than rain with the only significant rainfall amounts being confined to the northeast corner of B.C.”

So far, there have already been 689 wildfires in B.C. this year, an estimated 318 of which sparked during the week of June 28.

READ MORE: ‘Full forests are the best wildfire defence’: Peachland watershed group

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twila.amato@blackpress.ca

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