The next 48 hours are going to be crucial for those on the frontlines of B.C.’s wildfires, as lightning storms are forecast to continue striking the northern regions.
“There really isn’t a lot of B.C. that doesn’t at least have a chance to see some lightning activity,” BC Wildfire Service spokesperson Ryan Turcot said Wednesday.
“Since Saturday, the BC Wildfire Service has seen an uptick in wildfire activity, especially over the last 24 hours, and lightning has been a big driver of that.”
Following hotter-than-average temperatures for most of July, B.C. was hit with lightning on Tuesday night, sparking 132 new wildfires within 24 hours. Most of those fires started in the Cariboo, where 50 wildfires broke out overnight.
The Okanagan has seen the brunt of wildfire action, especially in the Central Okanagan and Similkameen areas, where about 12,000 hectares have been scorched.
Fortunately, Turcot said, the vast majority of the fires have not affected communities, although a handful of the blazes have been highly visible from highways and lakes, including near Lac La Hache and Kootenay National Park.
Nearly 68,000 hectares have burned in B.C. so far this year, about 46,000 of which has been in the Prince George fire zone.
Precipitation is expected to move through northern B.C., with cooler temperatures forecast into the B.C. Day long weekend.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Turcot said. “It’s going to bring cooler more seasonable temperatures, which is always a good thing in fire response, but also means we might see more lightning potential… stronger winds and when faster winds are blowing – that can make the existing fires move more aggressively.”
Rain is also anticipated in patchy patterns into next week.
“We’re expecting a rigged pattern to start settling in around Saturday to make for clearer, calmer and drier conditions,” Turcot said.
The BC Wildfire Service is again urging caution in the backcountry where some wildfires may look inactive but still continue to have hot spots, damaged trees that have a risk of falling, and hot ashes on the ground.
“Wildfires do have certain affects on the terrain they burn through,” he said. “It’s really important for people heading out to the backcountry to know where the wildfires have been burning and avoid active work sites.”