BC Wildfire Service says rain helping with active fires, but not enough to alleviate drought conditions

Rain didn't dampen drought

The BC Wildfire Service says while recent rainfall throughout the province has been helpful for crews fighting active wildfires — particularly in the north — it isn't enough to move the needle on B.C.'s drought conditions.

Sarah Budd, BCWS information officer, told Castanet Kamloops significant precipitation fell throughout B.C. coming out of the May long weekend and into Tuesday — which is “absolutely helping” with current wildfire response.

However, she noted considerable precipitation is needed to make an impact on overall drought conditions.

“In terms of impacting that drought that we’re seeing, the rain that we’ve had so far isn’t actually sufficient to make any changes to that. Our drought codes have not changed,” Budd said.

The drought code is a rating of the average moisture content of deep, compact organic layers on the forest floor — below the layers of dried needles, leaves and twigs, and other loose organic materials layered closer to the surface. Budd said it will take 25 millimetres of rain or more to begin to have significant impact on the drought code.

More than five millimetres of rain fell in the Fort Nelson area coming out of the long weekend.

For the Interior, May and June are typically the rainiest months. BC Wildfire Service and government officials say while the amount of rainfall required to alleviate drought conditions is possible, meteorologists are doubtful it will happen.

Under drought conditions, fire fuels are susceptible to ignition, and wildfires can spread rapidly.

As of May 16, the B.C. government has set the North and South Thompson regions at drought level two, meaning adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are unlikely.

The Lower Thompson region has been set at drought level three, meaning adverse impacts are possible.

Much of the northeast corner of the province — including the Fort Nelson and Peace regions — are set at drought levels four and five, the highest categories on the province’s scale, meaning adverse impacts are likely or almost certain.

Louis Kohanyi, meteorologist with Environment Canada, said Wednesday that so far in the month of May, Kamloops has received 14.8 millimetres of rain.

Kohanyi said the area typically records 27.4 millimetres of rain in May.

“We'll have to wait until the end of the month, when we have all the data for the month of May, to find out how it compares with climatology,” he said.

He noted there are some showers predicted for the Kamloops area over the next couple of days.

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