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Records fall in multiple communities as B.C. bakes in the summer heat

Current hot, dry conditions increase the potential for wildfire if thunderstorms follow
‘With local temperatures breaking the 40 C mark, the Ashcroft pool is a popular place to cool off.’ Barbara Roden/Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal

It was so hot on Sunday in Cache Creek, B.C., that only a “big, cold shower” could bring relief, Chandrika Dasi said.

She works at the Historic Hat Creek Ranch and lives on site in a cabin, but said she had to abandon her home for the shower and then head to the ranchrestaurant for some air-conditioned relief.

Dasi said the ranch is doing its best to cope with the heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring in British Columbia and beyond.

“We have many people who are employed here at the ranch, and we provide them with water and drinks all day,” she said.

“They have access to our restaurant where there’s air conditioning and we have air conditioning in some of our attractions.”

Cache Creek was a hot spot on Sunday, with a daily high of 40.3 C, breaking the record of 36.9 set in 2015.

It was one of almost two dozen records reset for July 7 in the province, and the hot spell continued with 46 heat alerts issued across B.C. by noon on Monday. The hot weather has extended into the Prairies, while a separate heat wave is hitting Atlantic Canada.

Metro Vancouver meanwhile issued an air quality advisory Monday due to ground-level smog it says in a statement will remain in place “until further notice” and is expected to last for a few days. The advisory covers northeast and southeast Metro Vancouver and the central and eastern Fraser Valley.

The heat has also raised concerns about wildfire risks and the forecast calls for dry lightning in the southern Interior on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said they’re working with the BC Wildfire Service on the locations where they have the most concern for wildfires.

“So, lightning associated to an upper feature where there’s just not enough moisture yet, and yet the ground is, of course, curing at very high and dry temperatures and humidity.”

The BC Wildfire Service said Monday the hot, dry conditions increase the potential for wildfire and the new weather pattern expected mid-week will bring high winds and thunderstorms, with dry lightning strikes.

There are 99 active wildfires burning in the province, most of them in the northeast section of B.C. where drought has been a persistent problem.

Jennifer Smith, a national warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, told a briefing on Monday about the hot weather across Western Canada that they watch for four things that lead to wildfires — hot and dry conditions, wind and lightning without rain.

“So, this is not a favourable setup for forest fires, not favourable in terms of it being good for forest fires. All the ingredients are there for forest fires, unfortunately.”

B.C. had a record wildfire season last year when more than 28,400 square kilometres of forest and land was burned, while thousands of people were forced to leave their homes.

A summary from Environment Canada shows 22 daily high temperature records fell across the province on Sunday, with the temperature of 38.3 C in Kamloops breaking a mark that was set in 1906.

Environment Canada says the heat wave brought in by a ridge of high pressure is expected to persist until about mid-week.

It says the high temperatures pose a “moderate risk” to public health, and the risks are greater for seniors, people who live alone and those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, respiratory illness or mental-health challenges.

Heat alerts cover much of the lower third of B.C., as well as parts of the northeast, inland sections of the central and north coasts, the Sunshine Coast, Whistler, Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and parts of Vancouver Island.

While the heat is expected to break Tuesday along the coast and on Vancouver Island, temperatures in the Interior are predicted to reach into the low 40s, before moderating Thursday.

The relief came early for Dasi in Cache Creek when a co-worker gave her an air-conditioning unit, which she said she planned to set up on Monday.

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