Wildfire crews in British Columbia are closely monitoring the backcountry as a heat wave is expected to hit the province, raising concerns about the potential for smoldering fires to ignite. The recent lightning storms have already heightened the risk of wildfires, adding to the already precarious drought and wildfire conditions. Government officials have emphasized that while this heat wave will not be as severe as the deadly weather event in June-July 2021, it still poses a threat to public health.
Starting from Sunday, temperatures are forecasted to reach the high 20s and low 30s in coastal areas, low to mid-30s inland, and mid-30s to high 30s in the Southwest Interior. Bowinn Ma, Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, urged people to be aware of the signs of heat-related illness and to take precautions to stay cool and safe. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry stated that while extreme heat responses may not be necessary, prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat stress.
The heat wave is expected to worsen the ongoing drought in the province, which has already resulted in water restrictions and impacts on farming and ranching. Over 80% of the province’s water basins are currently at Drought Level 4 or 5, indicating the likelihood of adverse effects on ecosystems. Communities may face such dire water shortages that the province may need to transport potable water from healthier reservoirs.
As of Thursday, there are 399 active wildfires in British Columbia, with 11 considered fires of note due to their potential impact on people, communities, and critical infrastructure. Evacuation orders and alerts have been issued for hundreds of properties. To combat the wildfires, there are approximately 4,000 personnel, including international contractors and BC Wildfire Service personnel.
The province has also partnered with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation to establish wildfire evacuee accommodations in Kamloops. These temporary accommodations will accommodate up to 300 individuals and will provide cultural and traditional support.
It is crucial for the province to remain prepared for wildfires and to prevent human-caused fires as the fire danger increases with drying forests. The government is taking proactive measures to address the wildfire situation and protect the well-being of communities affected by the heat wave and ongoing drought.