Scorching heat increasing fire danger across B.C.

Posted on 11/09/2018

Searing heat has increased the fire situation in B.C. to high and extreme values are making firefighting efforts all the more challenging.

On Monday, temperatures in Kamloops and Prince George are expected to reach 36 C. On Tuesday and Wednesday it will likely be close to 40 C.

These temperatures are more than 10 C higher than average for the region.

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“The heatwave we’re having has increased the fire danger rating significantly,” said Navi Saini, a fire information officer for the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch. “So most of the province is sitting at high to extreme danger rating, and about a third of the province is at the extreme and that’s the highest danger rating you can get.”

“It’s definitely the highest we’ve seen in at least four to five years.”

There are 73 active fires in the province, most of which are in the Prince George and Kamloops areas. Over the weekend firefighters responded to 25 new fires.

A map indicating the fire danger across B.C.

Courtesy B.C. Wildfire Management Branch

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“These hot, dry conditions are definitely not conducive to firefighting efforts,” Saini said.

Environment Canada meteorologist Allan Coldwells said that a ridge of high pressure – associated with sunny skies and great weather – is what’s responsible.

“A ridge of high pressure…will typically build a low-level southerly flow that draws air [up] – in this case from the desert southwest U.S. So that’s what’s bringing the heat up.”

Kamloops reached a new high for July 13 with a temperature of 40.3 C. The previous record was 39.4 C, set in 1961.

Of the significant fires, most have been caused by dry lightning strikes, Saini said. On Sunday, the agency responded to 16 new fires, 11 of which were deemed to be human-caused.

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On Monday, thunderstorms are expected in the southwestern part of the province, while in the north, high winds are expected. Both factors contribute to an increased fire threat.

Fortunately, no one has been injured during the battle against the flames, but the hot conditions are also taking their toll on firefighters who are walking into flames while battling the elements.

Forest fires rage in Red Deer Creek, B.C.

Courtesy B.C. Wildfire Management Branch

“Hydration and safety is always key,” Saini said. As well as keeping the crews hydrated, they also ensure that crews are taking breaks as necessary.

In Red Deer Creek, three oil and gas camps have been evacuated, affecting 200 people. In Euchiniko, an evacuation order was put in place for a fishing lodge, affecting only two people.

The Kluskus Reserve was also affected after the Wildfire Management Branch suggested that residents evacuate. The Band Council agreed, issuing an evacuation for 66 people.

Temperatures in the interior aren’t expected to drop to near seasonal values until the weekend.

WATCH: Provincial Fire Information Officer Navi Saini has an update on the wildfires burning over the weekend