Rain brings some relief for wildfire crews across B.C.

·3 min read
The White Rock Lake wildfire northwest of Vernon sends large clouds of smoke into the sky on Aug. 1. (B.C. Wildfire Service - image credit)
The White Rock Lake wildfire northwest of Vernon sends large clouds of smoke into the sky on Aug. 1. (B.C. Wildfire Service - image credit)

Rain showers over the B.C. Day long weekend have given wildfire crews a moment to breathe in some of the hardest-hit parts of the province.

Fire information officer Erika Berg said Monday morning that the southeast, the Kamloops region, the northwest and the Prince George area have all seen precipitation in the past 24 hours, and cooler temperatures are expected to persist into midweek.

"It's giving us a little bit of a break — a temporary one — for us to be able to reset some of our personnel so that they're well rested and able to respond to potential increases in activity in the next week," Berg told CBC News.

As of 10 a.m. PT, there were about 240 active wildfires in the province, but Berg said that number is in flux as the rain could extinguish some smaller blazes, while lightning could spark new ones.

Fire officials say stronger winds and potential thunderstorms are forecast for the areas near the Big Stick Lake fire in the Cariboo and the Octopus Lake fire near Fauquier in B.C.'s southeast.

As of Sunday night, 5,509 square kilometres of the province have burned this season. Residents of 4,186 properties have been ordered to evacuate, while another 21,131 properties are on evacuation alert.

The most concerning fires at the moment include the White Rock Lake fire to the northwest of Vernon, which has grown to 320 square kilometres and prompted several evacuation orders and alerts.

Fire information officer Shannon Street told CBC News that more evacuations could be ordered near the White Rock Lake fire if it keeps growing.

"We did see a little bit of rain, but a pretty minimal amount of precipitation that hasn't actually made much of a difference in terms of fire behaviour," Street said.

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis says the threat remains "very real" to his community as more than 500 properties remain under evacuation order.

"Fires are really unpredictable," said Louis. "I think there's without a doubt anxiety."

The smoke from the White Rock Lake fire has cancelled flights in and out of Kelowna.

More rain on the way

Environment Canada meteorologist David Wray said many areas of B.C. could see significant rainfall by the end of the week, particularly on the coast.

There's a good chance of rain even in places like the Okanagan and the Kootenays, though it likely won't be as much.

"Any amount will help," he said.

The weather system moving through B.C. beginning on Tuesday is also expected to clear away wildfire smoke that's been lingering over the South Coast since Saturday, but Wray said that isn't likely to happen in the southern Interior, where the fires are quite active.

Berg said wildfire crews are prepared for hot and dry conditions to potentially return starting this coming weekend.

On Tuesday afternoon, federal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth are scheduled to meet with members of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed in the Kamloops area to aid in the fire effort.

The federal government announced in July it was sending up to 350 military personnel to join the firefighting efforts in B.C.

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