High temperatures and dry weather have driven fire danger to high levels across the B.C. Interior, sparking concern about wildfires-image credit: file photo

Soaring temperatures spark wildfire concerns

A lack of rain and periods of wind have dried out valley bottoms

Be on high alert and be careful.

The B.C. Interior is at high risk for wildfires, with pockets of extreme danger and it looks like there will be no reprieve from Mother Nature for at least a week.

High temperatures and wind have driven up the risk, particularly in the community centres of Kelowna and Salmon Arm and a pocket of extreme danger southwest of Penticton.

Max Birkner, fire information officer with the Kamloops Fire Centre, says there has been talk of prohibiting campfires, something that may well happen this week as the forecast is for sun and increasing temperatures.

Environment Canada meteorologist Cindy Yu says after a long wet spring, June turned out to be a drier-than-normal month.

“As far as June 4th you had the wettest spring on record, going to the second driest June,” she says of Salmon Arm. “You didn’t get a whole lot of precipitation in June.”

Salmon Arm received 218.6 millimetres of rain in the three-month meteorological spring that is March through May, or 151 per cent of normal, which is 144.7 mm.

But the tables turned in June when the community received only 12.4 mm, which is only 19 per cent of the normal 65.7 mm for the month and a far cry from the 76.3 mm of rain that fell in May.

Spring was a wet affair in Kelowna too, where 121.7 mm of rain fell in spring, 141.5 per cent of the normal. which is 86 mm.

“It was the fourth wettest spring on record,” says Yu.

But the tap was turned off in June, when only 7.1 mm of rain fell. At only 15.5 per cent of the normal 45.9 mm, it was Kelowna’s third driest month on record.

Penticton received 199.6 mm of rain in the three months of spring instead of the average 86 mm. That was a whopping 235 per cent of normal, says Yu noting that the 18.5 mm that fell in June was 40 per cent of normal.

Vernon scored a soggy 160 mm of rain in spring, well above the average of 106.8 mm of precipitation. But June dried out with only 18.8 mm instead of the average 49.6

And dry it will be for a while.

The current forecast is for sun and high temperatures, peaking at 36 C in in all four communities on Friday and remaining there or dropping by one degree on Saturday, but no precipitation.

There’s a trough of low pressure hanging over the Pacific and Alaska, says Yu, noting the jet stream has separated it from a larger low pressure area and is allowing the build-up of a massive ridge of high pressure in the Interior.

“It is acting as a block in weather coming into B.C. but it looks like a low pressure system could swing our way by Monday, get some momentum and move into the Interior,” she said from her Vancouver office.

Every year in British Columbia, on average, there are more than 2,000 wildfires. Typically, over half of those wildfires are caused by lightning and the rest are caused by people, advises the Kamloops Fire Centre.

There have been nine wildfires in the Penticton Fire Zone and nine fires in the Vernon Zone since April 1, the official launch of the 2017 fire season.

Administratively Salmon Arm and the Shuswap as far as Chase and including all of North Shuswap now belong in the Vernon Fire Zone that includes, Sicamous, Enderby, Armstrong, Lumby, Cherryville and Vernon.

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