Fire season not surprising

Chelsea Powrie

UPDATE: 1:10 p.m.

Now that the Richter Creek fire is under control, South Okanagan wildfire fighters are reflecting on the official start to the fire season. 

While many in the public might feel like May 13 seems like an early start, that may have to do with flooding in recent years that kept the South Okanagan very wet until well into June, pushing back the fire season. 

For some of the firefighters, including Andre Chalabi who has fought many fires in the South Okanagan area and Southeast fire zone which has similar vegetation and topography, the timing doesn't seem unusual given the low snow pack and lack of flooding. 

"What happens in this part of the world is the vegetation is dormant in the springtime, then it goes through a green-up phase," Chalabi explained. 

This green-up happened recently, and after dry weather and lack of precipitation or high water levels, it dried out fast. 

"And we had about four or five days of really nice weather an high temperatures, 20s, 30s, and the smaller fuels dried out enough that between the fuel dryness and the slope the fire ignited and it took a run," Chalabi said. 

He said now is the time of year to brush up on common sense fire-use rules. 

"You just have to be careful with fire use," Chalabi said. "The rural areas here, folks have a tendency to like to burn the brush and that sort of stuff, so you need to pay attention to temperature and winds. When you think the winds are going to be very strong, you don't want to start a fire."

ORIGINAL: 9:30 a.m.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says rain in the forecast today will help crews fighting the Richter Creek wildfire west of Osoyoos.

Some rain fell on the 507-hectare fire overnight, although a risk of thunderstorms remains Thursday.

Crews completed a 100-hectare back burn Tuesday on the northwest and south flanks of the fire, achieving 80 per cent containment.

“Today the crews will mop up (extinguishing a fire after it has been brought under control) along the south flank and also along the west guard, where aerial wet line had been established yesterday,” BCWS said Thursday morning. “Any hotspots found along the northern perimeter will be direct attacked by crews.”

Temperatures at the fire site are expected to reach a high of 20 C today with a minimum relative humidity of 50 per cent.

“Due to the open fuel type in the area, the forecasted precipitation today will support ground crews with increasing the containment on the fire,” BCWS said.

Ninety-one firefighters and four helicopters will be managing the blaze today.

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