British Columbia

B.C. thunderstorms could spark forest fires

Severe thunderstorms forecast to sweep across the southern and northeastern B.C. Interior on Monday are raising concerns about forest fires.

Hazy skies on the South Coast caused by fires in Russia

An air tanker drops a load of fire retardant on the Tisigar Lake fire in northeastern B.C. earlier this year. (Wildfire Management Branch)

A series of severe thunderstorms forecast to sweep across the southern and northeastern Interior of B.C. on Monday are raising concerns about forest fires.

The forecast for thunderstorms follows a weekend which saw most of B.C. finally got its first stretch of hot, dry summer weather.

Environment Canada issued a notice on Monday warning that the storms will be capable of producing damaging wind gusts, hail and heavy downpours.

Meteorologist Doug Lundquist says that's the perfect mix for the lightning strikes that spark fires.

"We have all that fairly high relative humidity. We have really high heat," said Lundquist.

Those initial sparks can quickly be fanned by the winds into larger fires.

"The winds could gust to 90 kilometres an hour or more near thunderstorms — that's usually what causes the biggest amount of damage," he said.

At least one wildfire has already been spotted near Merritt. B.C. Forest Service spokesman Jill Chimko says firefighters are ready to respond.

"Our crews will be relocating to the areas of dry and concern to make sure they are ready to fight forest fires that may occur from the lightning," she said.

Russian haze

Meanwhile many people have noticed the skies above B.C. are already looking hazy.

But CBC meteorologist Claire Martin says that's not being caused by fires in B.C. or in the United States, but by smoke blowing in from wildfires across the Pacific Ocean.

"The smoke is coming at us from northern Russia, which has got a huge amount of fires going on right now, which is actually quite normal this time of year.

"It's looping below the Aleutians and then back into Vancouver," said Martin.

Martin says smoke from Russia is not a common occurrence here, but it's not unheard of and should have no significant effect on air quality in Vancouver.