BC Wildfire Service predicts increased fire threat as summer heats up

Temperatures are expected to rise and precipitation to fall over the next few weeks, leading to an increased risk of wildfires, despite a dramatic drop in the number of fires so far this year, the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) said.

“Inevitably, we will see an increase in fire activity,” BCWS chief forecaster Matt MacDonald said Thursday.

“Even though we’ve seen a slow start to our fire season, all we need is a week or two of warm, dry weather and some wind, and our fuel conditions can change quite quickly.”

MacDonald predicts seasonal temperatures will affect most of the province by mid-July and continue through August.

“Not only will we finally see those summer temperatures materialize, but they’ll probably be warmer than normal, probably a degree or two, which over a 30-day period is certainly remarkable,” MacDonald said.

The Yukon is already struggling with numerous fires due to hot and dry conditions. (Jackie Hong/CBC)

Daily changing local conditions, such as lightning and wind, which are difficult to predict, will be a deciding factor in the season’s wildfire toll.

The northwest and northeast of the province, which have experienced drier and warmer temperatures compared to the rest of the province, are expected to face the greatest risk, the BCWS said.

There were 144 active wildfires in Yukon on July 7, 2022. (Submitted by the Government of Yukon)

These conditions extended to the Yukon, where 113 BCWS firefighters joined local crews to battle the blazes.

As of early Thursday afternoon, there were 144 active wildfires in the Yukon, including major blazes in nearly every region of the territory. Several communities in the central territory have not received an evacuation order, but remain under an evacuation alert issued a few days ago.

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MacDonald said cool, wet weather in British Columbia, including a late snowpack, resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of wildfires in the province so far this year.

Only 217 fires were recorded from April 1 to July 4, about half the number compared to an average year. And all of them were smaller than normal, burning 2,748 hectares in total, or about 10% of the normal amount.

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