Forecasters predict wildfire hazard to extend well into September

·2 min read

A continuing run of hot, dry weather was keeping firefighters in the Southeast Fire Centre busier than usual for this time of year, amid warnings those conditions were expected to last for weeks yet.

“We anticipate warm, dry weather to continue well into the month, which means continued vigilance,” said Minister of Forests Katrine Conroy at a September 1 news conference updating the fire situation in the province. “I want to stress the importance of being prepared, planning ahead and staying informed.”

The weather conditions have also prompted regular air quality alerts and warnings in the region, both from local fires and from smoke blowing up from across the US border.

While home gardeners were thankful for conditions giving their tomatoes more time to ripen, the heatwave is also producing local thunderstorms on a regular basis, which in turned have sparked fires across the southeast part of the province.

And a forecaster said the trend was likely to continue as forests in the region continue to dry out.

“Above average temperatures are likely across BC in September, and return to normal temperatures is not likely until October,” said Neal McLoughlin, superintendent of predictive services with the BC Wildfire Service. “…The message here is without rain, these build-up indices will continue to climb in these parts of the province, so there still is hazard in the southeast corner and northeast corner of the province.”

At press time Monday, about 60 fires were burning in the Southeast Fire Centre, including 16 in the Valley Voice readership area. Most were caused by lightning, and scattered in remote backcountry or at high elevations. None were threatening homes or structures at this time.

Briggs Creek fire de-listed

The largest fire by far in the area continues to be Briggs Creek, a 2,160+ hectare fire about 11 kilometres west of Kaslo. That fire, which has been burning for about a month, prompted an evacuation alert for the community of South Fork near Kaslo. That alert was finally lifted on August 22.

The Briggs Creek fire was also de-listed as a ‘fire of note’ that day, showing reduced concern about its behaviour, though it’s likely to burn at high elevations well into the late fall. On September 2, an area restriction for travellers to the backcountry in that region was also cancelled.

While officials still advised people to remain vigilant, there are other signs the fire danger was slowly easing. The SEFC lifted its campfire ban on September 1, and is now allowing fires smaller than a half-metre in size.

In all, 1,355 fires have started across British Columbia this season, burning about 43,000 hectares of forest. That’s much lower than the 20-year provincial average, and just a fraction of the total number of acres burned last year.

The BC Wildfire Service says 93% of those fires are out, under control or being held.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice