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Lack of rain, high temperatures spike wildfire risk in southern part of Interior B.C.

Conditions in the region are volatile and much-needed rain is not present in the weather forecast

With fire season now in full swing, the B.C. Wildfire Service’s July forecast is showing a drier and hotter summer which points towards more fires.

The forecast shows northern B.C. received relatively normal levels of precipitation in June, but southern B.C. was much drier than usual.

“By the end of the month, the Southern Interior only received 30% of normal June rainfall,” the report states.

“Temperatures climbed steadily throughout the month, culminating with a historic heatwave that affected the entire province.”

The heat and the dry conditions led to an increased fire risk and resulted in large fires in the Central Interior and Northeastern B.C.

The Okanagan and southern Cariboo regions especially are “showing very high hazard,” stated the Wildfire Service’s report. Significant rain is needed to mitigate the risk in those areas, but weather forecasts show nothing but sun for the time being.

Burning conditions across the province are three to four weeks ahead of schedule. Grass and other surface fuels have dried up and are now “well-cured,” contributing to the mid-summer fire behaviour.

“Recent weather and fuel conditions have made initial attack challenging, meaning large fires will likely be occurring throughout the province.,” the report noted.

The heat wave, dry fuel conditions and lack of precipitation also do not bode well — the BC Wildfire Service said these conditions have helped create an environment for substantial fire growth.

More wildfire activity is expected well into July, with much of the Okanagan and southern Cariboo are showing high levels of fire fuel buildup, which could lead to more volatile fires.

The report noted that “select areas within the Kamloops Fire Centre are experiencing record moisture deficits” and that recent storms have “recently delivered more lightning than rain,” except for northeast B.C.

So far, there have already been 689 wildfires in B.C. this year, an estimated 318 of which sparked during the week of June 28.

READ MORE: ‘Full forests are the best wildfire defence’: Peachland watershed group

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Twila Amato

About the Author: Twila Amato

Twila was a radio reporter based in northern Vancouver Island. She won the Jack Webster Student Journalism Award while at BCIT and received a degree in ancient and modern Greek history from McGill University.
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