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Rising wildfire risk as temperatures soar in B.C. Interior

Tuesday, July 28th 2020, 2:58 pm - Ban on category 2 and 3 fires in Kamloops Fire Centre region begins July 29

As heat warnings are issued across south and southeastern B.C., the provincial wildfire service is warning residents that scorching temperatures can increase the risk of scorched earth.

Temperatures could rise as high as 36 C in the southern Interior this week, drying out forests and creating ideal wildfire conditions.

According to Erika Berg, spokesperson for the B.C. Wildfire Service in Kamloops, there is a heightened risk of fire from Lillooet stretching east to Falkland, just west of the Okanagan Valley.

BC Heat - July 28, 2020

RELATED: Ban on open fires across B.C. South Coast goes into effect

Berg said as of July 29, a ban on category two and three fires will be in effect across the Kamloops Fire Centre region. This means no fires larger than two metres high by three metres wide will be permitted. Campfires, which are classified as 0.5 metres by 0.5 metres, will still be allowed.

Similar restrictions were put in place in the Southeast Fire Centre last Friday.

While the risk is currently high for the Kamloops region, wildfire damage so far this year has been minimal compared to the catastrophic seasons of 2017 and 2018.

"It's well below the 10-year average," said Berg in an interview on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops on Monday.

She said 720 hectares have burned so far this year across B.C., only six per cent of what had burned by this time last year.

BC Fires: The province is divided into six regional fire centres: Cariboo, Coastal, Kamloops, Northwest, Prince George and Southeast. (BCWildfire.ca) The province is divided into six regional fire centres: Cariboo, Coastal, Kamloops, Northwest, Prince George and Southeast. (BCWildfire.ca)

But this does not mean B.C. is out of the woods yet.

According to CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe, by Friday this week there will be a chance of thunderstorms in the Interior, which she said also increases the risk of wildfires.

"Not great news after such a hot and dry week," said Wagstaffe.

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Berg is warning people to be extremely cautious if they do have a campfire right now. She says to be aware of the wind to ensure sparks are not blowing dangerously, and to build a fuel-free barrier around the campfire with ample water close to hand.

Anyone using an all-terrain vehicle in the backcountry should use spark arrestors to reduce fire risk, she added.

The province says there has been 239 wildfires this year. There are currently 11 active fires and six of them are in the Kamloops region.

To learn more about wildfire safety and to find out what the conditions are in your area, visit BCWildfire.ca.

This article was originally published for CBC News. Contains files from Daybreak Kamloops.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Getty Images.

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