Officials urge against complacency with B.C. wildfire season set to continue in the fall
Officials with the B.C. Wildfire Service say lightning activity during the weekend could result in more wildfire starts, and that despite a calmer year overall, the wildfire season will continue into September.
It has been a much less disruptive wildfire season in 2022 compared to 2021, which saw numerous large wildfires and thousands of people evacuated from their homes at once.
Around this time last year, wildfire officials say over 8,700 square kilometres of land had been burned, compared to just under 400 square kilometres this year.
However, a few weeks of drier weather and an uptick in lightning strikes resulted in over 390 new fires within the last week, according to the wildfire service.
2021 and 2022 wildfire seasons at the end of August
With lightning strikes on Friday, and more thunderstorms in the forecast this weekend, officials say it's possible more fires get started in the coming days and wildfires last well into September.
"What is a real deciding factor [in severity] is how much precipitation will be accompanied by those lightning strikes," said Erika Berg, a fire information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Services.
"What we're also seeing is what we call holdover fires, which is where a lightning strike may hit the landscape. And it isn't really detectable ... until temperatures increase and or there are significant winds."
Suspected cause of fires during 2022 B.C. wildfire season
More than 70 per cent of the wildfires in B.C. this year have been sparked by lightning.
Berg says the uptick in new fire starts can be attributed to a wetter-than-usual June and a prolonged hot spell in late July and August.
Bobby Sekhon, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the weather conditions mean the wildfire season will likely stretch into the fall.
"We didn't really have a lot of opportunity to recover precipitation or cooler periods of time and a lot of the interior has been quite dry," he said.
"Anytime we have an extended period of hot, dry weather followed by thunderstorms and lightning, there's that threat of wildfires."
Wildfires of note downgraded
Currently, only three wildfires of note are burning throughout B.C. A wildfire of note is one that is particularly visible or poses a threat to public safety.
Two such fires — the Briggs Creek and Mount Docking fires in southeast B.C. — were downgraded from the "wildfire of note" status on Thursday, with Berg saying there was no major growth expected and they were "no longer much of a risk."
In addition, no evacuation orders or alerts are currently in place in B.C. due to wildfires. Earlier this season, widespread orders had to be issued due to the Lytton Creek fire and the Keremeos Creek fire.
Despite the positive overall outlook, Berg says she wants people not to become complacent, and British Columbians should be prepared for fires year-round.
"This anticipation of our wildfire season extending into mid-September, late September, is not that abnormal for us," Berg said.
"But the current state of our environment and of our climate, there is that potential that we have earlier fire seasons [like 2021] and that those fire seasons do extend longer than what we've maybe seen historically."
Most of the province is still under a high or moderate risk of fire and large open fires are banned province-wide. Campfires are also prohibited in the Coastal, Kamloops, and Southeast fire regions.
Berg says residents should look at fireproofing their homes and look at government-provided funding to keep themselves and their properties safe.
She adds that they should continue to obey fire bans, report any new fires they see, and follow the instructions of their local authorities during an emergency situation.