The BC Wildfire Service says the number of wildfires sparked province-wide this year is well below average as cooler, rainier weather persists, but forecasts continue to predict that dry, hot weather is coming.
Andrea Heath, fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, told Castanet Kamloops the agency can’t predict what the summer will look like in terms of the number or severity of wildfires, but long-range modelling shows the cooler, delayed start to summer will transition to a hot and dry August.
“What we are seeing with our long range modelling is that we are going to see a drier, hotter August. ... But again, we can't fully predict what that will look like in terms of wildfires,” Heath said.
She said in typical years, the core fire season runs from July until the end of August or beginning of September.
“For us, that's probably what we're going to be looking at is more of a return to our regular scheduled core fire season. That being said though, we can't predict anything more than just a few days out in terms of weather,” Heath said.
She said this year to date, the province has seen 167 wildfires, well under the 10 year average of 319.
Last year at this time, B.C. — and the Kamloops region — was bracing for record-high temperatures and persistent drought conditions, and the BC Wildfire Service had already responded to 346 wildfires province-wide.
“We're well below our 10 year average and well below last year’s numbers in terms of fires to date. In terms of our fires situation, currently in the province, there are seven wildfires currently burning across the province, and only one of them is classified out of control at the moment,” Heath said.
In a press conference in early June, Scott MacDonald, BC Wildfire Service’s lead forecaster, noted wildfire activity is largely dependent on the summer’s rainfall and lightning activity, both of which are largely impossible to forecast far in advance.
MacDonald said an extreme event like last June’s heat dome can only be forecast about two weeks in advance.
“It doesn’t take very long, it can take a matter of a week for conditions to change drastically,” MacDonald said.
Heath said BC Wildfire Service crews are training and running scenarios and working on various projects, ensuring they are prepared for the season ahead.
“Just making sure that they're ready to head out at any moment, if we do start to see wildfires pop back up. We have invested a significant amount of funding into our programs this year, and so we are working with new technologies, we're looking at ways that we can increase the reaction time to wildfires,” Heath said.
As temperatures in Kamloops are predicted to briefly climb to above the seasonal average this weekend, Heath said it's important for residents to make sure they are responsible with handling their campfires as they enjoy their time outdoors.