B.C., Canada — Cooler temperatures, clouds and possibly rain are expected to give exhausted forest fire crews a break Monday in many parts of B.C., but a series of thunderstorms could spark new fires.
Fire information officer Alyson Couch said damp weather has already cut the number of new fires in B.C. to about 20 per day down from 200 a day just two weeks ago.
Rain would wipe out most of the smoke, but the fire risk will remain high, no matter how hard it rains over the next several days, said fire information officer Kim Steinbart.
“A good rainfall can reduce a fire to the point that you may not see smoke, but the heat will remain in the ground and it can remain there for quite some time. So if we start to see warmer conditions come back, or even just dry conditions remain after this bit of rain, a fire can reignite,” she said.
There was also a severe thunderstorm watch issued Monday for the central Interior, including Prince George, Quesnel, Burns Lake, and McBride, raising concerns lightning could spark new fires.
A campfire ban remains in effect in B.C. and much more rain is needed before the forest service would consider rescinding it, Steinbart said.
The B.C. Forest Service is still urging everyone to stay out of the backcountry, for fear of sparking a wildfire. Officials are asking mountain bikers, campers and hikers hoping to explore undeveloped parts of the province to make other plans. Hundreds of fires still burning
Despite the cooler weather, crews are still keeping a very close eye on an estimated 750 fires burning around the province and experts believe some forest fires may continue to smoulder until the snow flies.
On the South Coast, a small wildfire that began Sunday morning within sight of the Sea-to-Sky Highway north of Vancouver covered about two hectares by Monday morning and was threatening to damage nearby power lines.
In Southern Interior, the Terrace Mountain wildfire burning on the northwest shore of Lake Okanagan grew to cover 90 square kilometres on Sunday after firefighters carried out a successful burn on the north flank of the blaze, removing three square kilometres of timber on the steep slopes of Terrace Mountain.
The back-burn reduced the hazard for forestry crews working on lower slopes and also reinforced the firebreak protecting homes north of the community of Fintry. More than 2,100 people remain out of their homes because of the fire, which is still only 40 per cent contained. Lillooet area fires partly contained
Meanwhile, life is returning to normal around Lillooet, in the southwestern Interior after evacuation orders were lifted for 2,300 people affected by the Mount McLean fire but hundreds of others in nearby communities remain out of their homes.
Evacuations are still in effect for people living around the Intlpam, Seton Portage and Yalakom fires while the blaze at Yalakom continues to cut across Highway 40, the main access to the Bridge River Valley.
The Mount McLean fire is 50 per cent contained, but the Intlpam fire south of Lillooet, the Seton Portage fire to the west and the Yalakom blaze to the northwest are only about 25 per cent contained. That means hundreds of residents of Gold Bridge, Bralorne and Gun Lake must rely on the Hurley River Forest Service Road to Pemberton which also skirts a major fire near Pemberton Meadows.
The two major wildfires on the Central Coast are still largely uncontained. In Bella Coola, a state of emergency remains in effect, but residents ordered out of their homes last week were allowed to return over the weekend.
Another 50 people forced from of their homes by the Kluskus fire in the last week still can’t return. The members of the Kluskus First Nation were airlifted to Quesnel a week ago and the fire has since quadrupled in size to 6,300 hectares, and is still uncontained.