British Columbia

Wildfire risk to remain high in B.C. this summer, outlook suggests

The B.C. Wildfire Service says the summer is looking hot and dry, and wildfire activity is expected to persist well into July.

Hot, dry conditions expected to persist, creating tinder-dry fuel, says wildfire service

Firefighters are battling hundreds of wildfires in B.C. as of July 7, 2021, and the summer forecast means more are likely on the way. (BC Wildfire Service)

A hot, dry summer is predicted for much of British Columbia, and the heightened wildfire situation is expected to persist well into July, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 201 wildfires were burning, 22 of which were sparked in the last two days. 

The wildfire service has released a seasonal outlook, reporting that the lack of precipitation in the second half of June, mixed with a record-breaking heatwave at the end of the month, means grass and other surface fuels are bone-dry, creating a perfect storm for increased wildfire activity.

They expect wildfire behaviour in coming weeks will be similar to typical mid-July and August conditions. 

Long-range forecasts indicate that only the northern third of the province will see normal precipitation levels.

"Recent weather and fuel conditions have made initial attack challenging, meaning large fires will likely be occurring throughout the province," the report says. 

The Sparks Lake wildfire, 15 kilometres northwest of Kamloops, has forced more than 170 people to evacuate their homes, and a further 700 properties are on evacuation alert. (MLAZZ Creative by Matt Lazzarotto)

At particular risk are the Okanagan and southern Cariboo regions. The wildfire service says significant rain would be required to mitigate those risks, but there isn't any in the forecast.

Select areas within the Kamloops Fire Centre are experiencing record dryness, even though the area did get some rainfall during recent thunderstorms. Those thunderstorms, however, also brought lightning and the wildfire service said it is anticipating more fire starts from dry lightning in the coming weeks.

A July 1 aerial view of structures destroyed by fire in Lytton, B.C. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

So far this year B.C. has had 752 fires, nearly half of which are believed to be human caused.

The Sparks Lake wildfire, north of Kamloops, has grown to more than 392 square kilometres since it was discovered on June 28. 

The Lytton Creek fire, which destroyed most of the village of Lytton, forcing hundreds from their homes and killing at least two people, is now 77 square kilometres in size, and on July 7, fire crews were pulled out of the area due to the fire's high intensity. 

An evacuation alert was issued Wednesday night for Copper Desert County, Grasslands and Beautiful Nicola Valley-North due to a fire near Napier Lake area in the Thompson- Nicola District. This alert affects 96 properties. 

A helicopter pilot prepares to drop water on a wildfire burning near Lytton on July 2. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Kamloops, an often hot, dry city in B.C.'s southern Interior, currently has forecasted highs in the mid-30s for the week, accompanied by a thunderstorm watch and a smoky skies bulletin. 

High temperatures are expected through much of the Interior throughout the rest of this week and into next.

An air quality bulletin remains in effect for several regions of the province due to wildfire smoke. Environment Canada said smoke is widespread throughout the southern Interior but may stay aloft. 

On Wednesday evening, Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch for South Thompson, Chilcotin, East Kootenay, Elk Valley and Fraser Canyon. The extreme heat B.C. has faced over the last few weeks has brought lightening strikes.

Anyone placed under an evacuation order must leave the area immediately. 

Evacuation centres have been set up throughout the province to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire. To find the centre closest to you, visit the Emergency Management BC website.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.

Those looking for loved ones can contact the Canadian Red Cross for family reunification services at 1-800-863-6582.


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