British Columbia

Wildfire service outlook points to rising fire risk for southern B.C.

Rainfall in the next three weeks is crucial if British Columbia hopes to avoid a devastating wildfire season — but the latest outlook from the B.C. Wildfire Service offers little optimism.

Spring was significantly drier than usual for many southern areas of the province

A wildfire burning north of Okanagan Falls in August 2020. Nearly 300 wildfires have been sparked in B.C. since April 1 this year, which is higher than normal. (Josh Pagé/CBC)

Rainfall in the next three weeks is crucial if British Columbia hopes to avoid a devastating wildfire season — but the latest outlook from the B.C. Wildfire Service offers little optimism.

The service says rainfall and temperatures were near normal across the northern half of the province in May, but the same period was significantly drier than average throughout southern B.C.

Warmer and drier conditions are expected to persist in June across most of the south, while the wildfire service outlook says there's no clear trend for the rest of the province.

The current wildfire danger rating shows most of the province at a "very low" or "low" risk, meaning wildfires can start but are unlikely to grow.

But the outlook says: 

  • Kelowna and Vernon just set records for the least amount of spring rainfall;
  • Kamloops saw its second-driest spring in more than a century;
  • Many southern communities received less than 40 per cent of expected precipitation.

Nearly 300 wildfires have been sparked across the province since April 1, which is higher than normal, and the wildfire service says If the conditions remain the same, southern B.C. can expect an above-average fire season.

"If the current weather trends continue, we can expect both the frequency and size of fires to increase as grass and other fine fuels start to 'cure' or dry out," the outlook says.

 

Lightning strikes increase in July, raising the potential for natural fire starts, says the forest service — especially in areas where the highest fire hazard already exists, such as the Okanagan and the southeastern corner and eastern side of the Rocky Mountains.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Wildfire Service will ban Categories 2 and 3 open fires — defined as two or more piles burning simultaneously and not exceeding two metres in height and three metres in width — across southeastern and south central B.C. starting Friday at noon.

The agency's provincial wildfire information officer Erika Berg says there's no need yet for a campfire ban.

"But if things continue to dry out, then we'll certainly be putting that in place," she said Wednesday to Chris Walker, the host of CBCs's Daybreak South

Tap the link below to hear Erika Berg's interview on Daybreak South:

The BC Wildfire service has just released its seasonal outlook and the threat of an intense fire season is very real. Parts of the Okanagan have received only 20 percent of normal rainfall so far this year. It's been the driest spring in Vernon since 1904. Erika Berg is a Provincial Wildfire Information Officer with the BC Wildfire Service. 5:09

With files from Daybreak South

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