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B.C. faces impending hot, dry stretch that could increase wildfire risk

Saturday, July 23rd 2022, 7:43 pm - The risk for wildfires will increase across British Columbia next week as hot temperatures and dry air settle in over the province.

We’re watching the potential for summer’s first sizzle across British Columbia heading into the last week of July. A steep upper-level ridge will send temperatures soaring to their hottest levels so far this season. The hot and dry conditions are bad news for the province’s wildfire prospects, with existing fires potentially spreading and new fires sparking. More on what to expect next week, below.


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Next week: A building ridge allows the heat to crank up

We’re looking ahead to the potential for an impactful heat event across British Columbia next week.

A strong upper-level ridge will build over the Gulf of Alaska early next week, stretching all the way north into the Arctic Circle.

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Ridges foster sinking air, which heats up and dries out as it descends to the surface. This kind of setup will allow for a stretch of hot and dry weather for much of B.C. through the final week of July.

Currently, forecast models show the ridge building just offshore, which will allow coastal communities to get in on the excessive heat at times.

High temperatures could reach 30°C or warmer in Vancouver, which is a tough feat for the coastal city in many cases. For some perspective, Vancouver’s seasonal high for the last week of July is around 23°C. The heat could feel more like the mid-30s early next week.

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Heat looks to continue heading into the final weekend of July, with temperatures potentially reaching the 40-degree mark for parts of the southern Interior.

The heat is going to feel especially rough after a relatively temperate and wet couple of months across B.C. An active pattern brought one storm system after another to the province, keeping things on the cooler and wetter side.

Temperatures over the past 60 days have come in around or below seasonal for much of the province. Most areas around the province have seen near- to above-seasonal precipitation over the past couple of months, as well.

WATCH: Poor air quality due to wildfires persist in parts of Canada


MUST SEE: How to ensure your safety during wildfire season


Existing wildfire grows, possibility of new blazes with conditions

Steady and consistent rain over the past couple of months increased the amount of growth and foliage across B.C. This growth can be a liability as conditions heat up and dry out, potentially serving as fuel for new wildfires that spark up during and after the heat wave.

BCfire1

The parched conditions, combined with an extremely steep terrain of the Fraser Canyon, have caused the Nohomin Creek wildfire to grow in size this week, and may continue to do so in the days ahead. However, there was some good news on Friday, thanks to quieter fire behaviour observed. This allowed BC Wildfire Service and Lytton First Nation personnel to make progress on containment and contingency lines.

As of Saturday evening, the fire remains out of control and its size grew to 2,503 hectares, according to the BC Wildfire Service. However, temperatures will continue to rise and humidity may decrease into the coming week, which could challenge crews by causing an increase in fire behaviour.

As a result of the wildfire, air quality is poor in nearby communities due to the smoke. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has issued a special air quality statement for Fraser Canyon including Lillooet and Lytton.

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Lytton First Nation Reserves issued an evacuation order on July 14. Thompson Nicola Regional District issued an evacuation order and alert, and declared a local state of emergency for the Blue Sky Country region last week.

Residents will have to closely monitor wildfire news and prepare for potential evacuations if local officials issue any advisories or orders.

A few simple steps you can take now to prepare for the threat for wildfires include:

  • Create an evacuation plan long before any fires have a chance to spark
  • Have a plan for pets and livestock in the event a fire threatens your property
  • Assemble a grab-and-go emergency evacuation bag that includes personal necessities and important documents
  • Ensure your property is trimmed and clear from debris, and be mindful of combustible materials like outdoor furniture and propane tanks
  • Don’t forget masks and respirators for potentially hazardous wildfire smoke

Tips for dealing with the heat

The heat itself can also take a significant toll. Excessive heat is a leading cause of weather-related illnesses and fatalities. The toll of heat is especially tough on vulnerable populations such as low-income households, unhoused people, the elderly, and folks living with health issues.

extreme heat safety tips

The effects of a high heat are even worse when the hot temperatures linger for multiple days. Hot days lingering into stifling nights have a compounding effect on homes without air conditioning, leading to an increasing risk for heat-related illnesses as a stretch of hot weather drags on.

WATCH BELOW: No A/C? These are the quick and easy things you should be doing

Check back frequently for updates on this potentially impactful heat event across B.C.

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