CANADA – VANCOUVER—The BC Wildfire Service says some of last summer’s monster forest fires could still be smouldering deep underground and may flare up with little warning.
So-called “overwintering fires” are the result of huge burns such as last summer’s Elephant Hill fire near Kamloops. They can continue to smoulder for weeks or months, sometimes popping up again in the spring when the snow recedes.
“Last season, given the prolonged drought that we had and the severity of the wildfire season, because those fires burned so hot they were able to go deep into the organic soil layers,” said Claire Allen, a fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service.
The areas of concern include the Kamloops and Cariboo regions, which bore the brunt of last summer’s infernos.
Allen said the most likely places for these underground fires to re-emerge are locations where the original fire burned hottest and longest, where there are deep layers of organic soil and where the ground stays relatively dry through the winter.
Thankfully, that also means that in some cases these fires pop up in the spring to find nothing but scorched earth and no new fuel to burn. In those cases, they can be left to burn themselves out, Allen said.
But other cases need to be handled by wildfire crews. She said BC Wildfire has already seen some small overwintering fires flare up again. They’ve been taken care of, but she’s asking anyone in the Kamloops and Caribou regions to keep their eyes open.
“If they do see any wildfire behaviour, whether it’s smoke or smouldering ground, it would be great to get a call about it,” she said. Contact information can be found at the BC Wildfire Service website.