Forest Fire Danger rating upgraded to High in Merritt

·2 min read

Following several weeks of unseasonably hot and dry temperatures, the Forest Fire Danger Rating in Merritt has been upgraded to High.

According to BC Wildfire Service: “Forest fuels are very dry, and the fire risk is serious. New fires may start easily, burn vigorously, and challenge fire suppression efforts. Extreme caution must be used in any forest activities. Open burning and industrial activities may be restricted.”

The BC Wildfire Service operates roughly 260 weather stations around the province, which issue reports on an hourly basis. These weather observations, alongside data from agency stations, are used as part of the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System.

Krista Minar, Merritt’s FireSmart Representative and Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, said that while it isn’t out of character to see a change in fire rating in the spring, people should be cautious and do their part to prevent further fires from sparking.

“The fire danger rating being high right now is not unusual,” said Minar.

“Because we are coming off of the winter season a lot of our fuels have been cured, and so everything’s already dry and obviously we haven’t received any new precipitation, so something that we really are trying to encourage people to do when we’re in this stage, is to use the fire danger rating as a call to action.”

When the Fire Danger Rating is Low, Minar said that people should be thinking about how to FireSmart their homes, with information available on the Merritt Fire Rescue Department (MFRD) website, or the FireSmart BC website.

At the Moderate stage, it’s a good time to start preparing by implementing the FireSmart principles, such as removing combustible materials from within five feet of their home, making sure the yard is tidied and fine fuels are removed, as well as ensuring gutters are cleaned and the roof of your home is in good repair.

During a High rating, Minar says that Merritt residents should be in a preparatory stage. It’s time to ready a wildfire evacuation kit. Information about the kit can be found at getprepared.gc.ca.

“When we move up into extreme, and we have had one extreme rating already this year, that’s the stage where we want everybody to be paying attention, making sure that they’re keeping up with any local fires that are occurring,” said Minar.

Merritt is environmentally very prone to fires, as there is a hot and dry climate, as well as strong winds and active use of the backcountry by many.

“When you live in a fire prone area, you know it’s just a matter of time,” said Minar.

“It’s not if, it’s when.”

Signs indicating fire danger are located at 1799 Nicola Ave, and approximately 1675 Juniper Drive, across from Pineridge Cemetery. One is also visible on Voght St. near the RCMP station.

Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald