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Intensified wildfire activity expected to continue through August: BC Wildfire

Southern areas will bear the brunt with above seasonal temperatures forecast
A BC Wildfire Service photo shows fire activity at Maria Creek near Pavilion on Aug. 2. The service says wildfire activity will continue throughout August. (Courtesy of BC Wildfire Service)

BC Wildfire Service says southern areas of the province are in for more fire activity this month with above seasonal temperatures forecast into September.

In an update on conditions Thursday (Aug. 4), the service said an increase in rainfall in the north will dampen activity there throughout the remainder of the summer, but that dryer conditions in the Interior and Okanagan will ensure wildfires started at the end of July continue to burn.

Neal McLoughlin, superintendent of predictive service for BC Wildfire Service, said the province can expect August activity similar to that of the last week of July, when about 150 wildfires were sparked.

Still, he said, there have been far fewer wildfires this summer than in most years. The province is at about 20 per cent of what it’s experienced in the last 20 years, according to McLoughlin.

So far this year, 530 wildfires have been recorded and about 28,000 hectares have been burned. By comparison, at this time last year, there had been 1,300 wildfires and nearly 25-times the number of hectares burned, according to forestry minister Katrine Conroy.

Much of this is thanks to an abnormally wet winter and cool spring, which kept potential fuel sources from drying out as quickly, McLoughlin said.

As of Thursday morning, there are 64 active fires burning throughout the province, according to the BC Wildfire Service, down from 91 the day before.

The majority of them remain in the Kamloops (23 fires) and Southeast (19 fires) regions, with another eight in the Prince George area, six in the Cariboo region, five in the Northwest, and three considered Coastal.

Of them, 23 are considered under control, 16 are out of control, 14 are being held, five are new, and six are ‘fires of note,’ meaning they are particularly visible or threatening.

Lightning is the suspected cause in 45 of them. Humans are believed to have caused another eight, and the start of the remaining 11 is unknown.

Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, said as of Wednesday about 326 properties are under evacuation order and another 500 are under evacuation alert. Close to 200 evacuees have registered for emergency support.

READ ALSO: B.C. evacuees can now get emergency funding through e-transfers from the province

These are the six wildfires of note:

Connell Ridge

Estimated fire size: 632 hectares (as of Aug. 3)

Location: 15 kilometres south of Cranbrook

Discovered: Aug. 1

Cause: Lightning

The Connel Ridge fire was updated to a fire of note Wednesday and is estimated at 632 hectares. It has a slow rate of speed, but is expected to spread.

An evacuation alert has been issued for six properties near Mount Connell as a result.

Crews are working on creating control lines by clearing wide paths of any flammable material.

There are 48 firefighters and three helicopters tackling the fire as of Wednesday evening.

Keremeos Creek

Estimated fire size: 4,250 hectares

Location: 21 kilometres southwest of Penticton

Discovered: July 29

Cause: Under investigation

The blaze grew 1,460 hectares from Wednesday morning to Thursday, both from the natural spread of the fire and some controlled ignitions by crews. Controlled burning is done to reduce fuel availability along containment lines.

Crews plan to continue containment and controlled burning along Highway 3A Thursday.

An evacuation order remains in effect for 324 properties in Electoral Areas I and G. Another 438 properties are under alert. BC Wildfire says they’ll protect structures as needed.

The service also says it expects the fire to continue to spread as it burns in less accessible areas.

There are currently 290 firefighters, 12 helicopters and 31 pieces of heavy equipment fighting the blaze.

READ ALSO: South Okanagan wildfire sees significant growth, evacuation orders still in effect

Nohomin Creek

Estimated fire size: 3,700 hectares

Location: 1.7 kilometres northwest of Lytton

Discovered: July 14

Cause: Suspected human-caused

BC Wildfire service hasn’t recorded a change in size for the Lytton-area fire since Wednesday morning, but says it is continuing to move west away from communities and into the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park.

Crews continue to be able to contain the fire’s south, northeast, and east flanks, but steep and rocky terrain is preventing them from battling the northwest corner.

Precipitation and cooler temperatures are aiding firefighters for now, but hot temperatures are set to return this weekend.

There are 42 firefighters and 10 helicopters battling the fire.

Briggs Creek

Estimated fire size: 1,679 hectares (as of Aug. 3)

Location: 11.5 kilometres west of Kaslo

Discovered: Aug. 1

Cause: Lightning

The fire continues to burn in steep, inoperable terrain, but BC Wildfire says it’s moving fairly slowly.

It says during the night the fire is magnified by the darkness and may appear closer than it is to surrounding communities. Still, the regional district has issued an evacuation alert for 14 area properties.

There were seven firefighters and one helicopter on scene as of Wednesday afternoon.

Watching Creek

Estimated fire size: 1,004 hectares

Location: 6 kilometres northeast of Pavilion

Discovered: July 31

Cause: Lightning

The wildfire hasn’t grown in size since an aerial assessment was completed Aug. 2 thanks to cooler weather, but remains classified as out of control.

Crews are expected to continue work on a water delivery system Thursday, as well as on its guard around the blaze. A fireguard is created either by removing fuels, or coating fuels with retardants.

An evacuation alert issued Monday is still in place for properties in Electoral Area J, and the Pass Lake recreation site remains closed.

There are 65 firefighters on scene fighting the blaze, assisted by six helicopters and nine pieces of heavy equipment.

BC Wildfire Service says fire activity is expected to remain reduced as cooler weather and some possible rain hit the region.

Maria Creek

Estimated fire size: 195 hectares

Location: 16 kilometres northwest of Kamloops

Discovered: July 29

Cause: Lightning

The fire hasn’t grown in size since Wednesday morning. It continues to burn in old cut blocks where fuelos are patchy.

Short term weather is expected to favour firefighters with light rain forecast overnight Thursday. Headed into Friday, however, temperatures are expected to heat back up.

The Veasy Lake Forest Service road is closed.

Crews are working Thursday to increase containment lines and lay down more fire hose.

There are 82 firefighters and 10 helicopters on scene.


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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media.
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