Crews struggle against B.C. Interior fires
Thursday, July 26, 2018, 6:20 PM - British Columbia's wildfire situation is expected to worsen before it gets better, with a forecast full of rising temperatures and a long, dry stretch of days. As major blazes continue to burn out of control, temperatures climb into the 30s, and rainfall continues to avoid the region, it looks like a rough road ahead this fire season.
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The province's wildfire service is grappling with eight 'wildfires of note' this week, most of them burning in the Okanagan Valley. By far the largest is the Mt. Eneas fire, burning at just under 1,800 hectares near the community of Peachland, between Kelowna and Penticton.
By Thursday, the fire was no longer burning out of control but is still posing a risk, according to a Thursday bulletin from B.C. Wildfire Service.
Updates from Central Okanagan Emergency Operations said significant progress is being made by B.C. Wildfire personnel, of whom some 180 are in the area. Controlled burn operations over the weekend were deemed successful, as the Mt. Eneas fire was merged with another -- the Munro Forest Service Road fire. According to the wildfire service, "This was done to remove the fuel on the steeper slopes. Crews can now action the fire on flatter, safer ground."
All evacuation alerts for the area have been cancelled.
WATCH BELOW: FIREFIGHTERS WORK ON MT. ENEAS WILDFIRE
FIREFIGHTER EFFORTS STALLED BY DRONE
The B.C. Wildfire Service reported crews were forced to temporarily halt air operations combating the Wilson Creek wildfire, north of Castlegar, over the weekend, after a drone intruded on the area. "A helicopter that was supporting ground crews was grounded," according to a report released by the service on Tuesday. "Additional firefighting aircraft working on other fires in the area had to be diverted from their flight paths to avoid the airspace around Little Wilson Lake area, which is about 19 kilometres east of Nakusp."
The service also reminded residents that using drones near wildfires is illegal. "Under federal regulations, anyone caught operating a drone within an active wildfire could be fined $25,000, or jailed for up to 18 months."
FIRE CONDITIONS EXPECTED TO WORSEN WITH HOT, DRY DAYS AHEAD
The dry season is living up to its name in a big way across southern British Columbia. While we saw a few isolated showers and thunderstorms through the southern Interior last week, they did more harm than good, with lightning strikes sparking nearly 40 new blazes in a single day. It's no better near the coast, where Vancouver's last reported shower falling on July 10.
This event is quite rare in terms of the expected duration of temperatures at or above 30°C, even regions along the coast.
THE HEAT WAVE THAT WON'T END... WHAT'S TO BLAME?
Fueled by extreme heat in the U.S. Desert Southwest, a ridge of high pressure is expected to build back into the province through this week, and that's bad news when it comes to our chances for rain, or less-than-sweltering temperatures. Heat warnings were issued Monday for much of the coast (remaining in effect Wednesday), as well as eastern Vancouver Island, with above-average temperatures expected to hang on for the rest of the week, if not longer.
"We can expect an extended period of warm/hot weather for the rest of July," says Weather Network meteorologist Dr. Doug Gillham. Heat will spread from the coast into the Interior as the ridge builds in this week. High pressure building over the Interior will effectively shut off any relief the coast might see from onshore winds bringing ocean breezes, with temperatures expected to flirt with the 30 degree mark for Vancouver by week's end.
At the same time, the ridge will preclude many -- if not all -- chances for rain across the region, exacerbating already dry conditions and raising fire danger. "There's little chance for rain during the next 7 to 10 days," says Gillham.
Thumbnail courtesy B.C. Wildfire Service