Cool weather gives wildfire crews a break as BC Wildfire Service transitions into year-round operation

Wildfire season won't end

Cindy White

The wildfire season is winding down in the Kamloop Fire Centre, but this year, there is no actual end to BC Wildfire Service operations. The provincial government announced in February that it would go to a year-round model to make the service more proactive instead of reactive.

Mother Nature also helped out.

There have been 412 fires in the region this year, burning a relatively-small 21,700 hectares. Last year there were 445 fires by mid-September, but more than 497,500 hectares had gone up in flames, destroying homes in Lytton, Monte Lake and on the west side of Okanagan Lake.

A cool spring of 2022 meant a slow start to the fire season.

“Our first wildfire of note this season was the Nohomin Creek wildfire located west of Lytton, which started on July 14. Compare that to last year, we were seeing wildfires of note pop up as early as mid to late-June. So, a different start to the season, for sure,” said wildfire information officer Aydan Coray.

One of the larger fires in the region was the Keremeos Creek wildfire. At its peak, it covered 7,000 hectares and prompted a weeks-long evacuation of both Olalla and Apex Mountain Resort. It also destroyed one home.

Human-caused fires across BC were at their lowest since the 1950s. Lightning, however, was a more of a challenge.

“Through June, July and August, though, we did see a cumulative 24,600 lightning strikes in the Kamloops Fire Centre region alone,” explained Coray.

She notes that initial attack crews who responded to those fires had a high success rate.

“As well, reports from the public definitely played a huge role in responding to those wildfires. We had 84 per cent of our wildfires detected in our region declared out at one hectare in size or smaller.

“Ultimately, between the public and our quick initial response, we had a better response this year,” said Coray.

One of the things that helped get information from the public to initial attack crews was a new app that allows people to report a wildfire and attach photos of what they’re seeing. Coray said that allowed the operations team to assess and respond faster.

She points out that even though the cooler fall weather will suppress wildfire activity, people might see occasional smoke from some of the fires still smouldering.

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