British Columbia

B.C. Wildfire Service forecasts increased fire threat as summer heats up

Wet, cold weather cut this year's wildfires by half, but a week of seasonal late summer temperatures could dry out fuel and resurrect risks

Northern B.C. faces the greatest risk due to warm, dry conditions

Firefighters learn how to dig a hand guard during a training exercise in 2016. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Temperatures are expected to rise and precipitation to fall in the coming weeks, leading to an increased forest fire risk, despite a dramatic drop in the number of fires so far this year, the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) said.

"Inevitably, we'll see an increase in fire activity," BCWS lead forecaster Matt MacDonald said Thursday.   

"Even though we've seen a slow start to our fire season, all we need is a week or so of warm dry weather and a bit of wind, and our fuel conditions can change quite rapidly."

MacDonald is forecasting seasonal temperatures to hit most of the province by mid-July and continue through August.

"Not only will we see these summer-like temperatures finally materialize, but they will likely be warmer than normal, likely by the tune of a degree or two, which over a 30-day period is definitely noteworthy," MacDonald said.

The Yukon is already battling a lot of fires due to hot, dry conditions. (Jackie Hong/CBC)

Changeable daily local conditions, like lightning and wind, which are difficult to forecast, will be a deciding factor in the season's wildfire toll.

The province's northwest and northeast, which have had drier, warmer temperatures compared with the rest of the province, are expected to face the greatest risk, the BCWS said. 

There were 144 active wildfires across Yukon on July 7, 2022. (Submitted by the Yukon government)

Those conditions extended through to the Yukon, where 113 BCWS firefighters have joined local crews battling blazes.

As of early Thursday afternoon, there were 144 active wildfires across Yukon, including major fires in almost all regions of the territory. Several communities in the central territory haven't been ordered to evacuate, but remain under an evacuation alert issued a few days ago. 

LISTEN | Communities are gearing up for the season

After successive wildfires, floods and storms last summer, the CBC’s Sarah Penton visited communities in British Columbia to find out how they’re preparing for potential climate-related disasters in the months ahead.

MacDonald said B.C.'s wet cool weather, including a late snowpack, led to a dramatic drop in the number of provincial wildfires so far this year. 

Just 217 fires have been recorded from April 1 to July 4  — about half the number compared with an average year. And all of them have been smaller than normal, burning 2,748 hectares in total, about 10 per cent of the normal amount.