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Cooler weather helping crews battling wildfires

But the heat is expected to soon return for the rest of August
Watching Creek wildfire Aug 3 BC Wildfire Service
Smoke rises from the Watching Creek wildfire northwest of Kamloops on Aug. 3, 2022. As of that date, the fire had burned an estimated 195 hecatres of land. The fire was sparked by lightning on July 29, 2022.

While cooler weather is helping fire crews battle blazes around Kamloops, weather trends across the province are expected to heat up once again throughout August.

The Watching Creek wildfire, burning approximately 15 kilometres northwest of Kamloops, has seen little growth over the past 24 hours. Since it started on July 29, the lightning-sparked blaze has burned an estimated 195 hectares of land.

While no structures have been impacted, an evacuation alert was put in place by the regional district on Monday, advising those in the Pass Lake, McQueen Lake and Isobel Lake areas that they may be ordered to evacuate.

In a provincewide update delivered on Thursday (Aug. 4), the BC Wildfire Service said there are currently 91 active wildfires in the province, with six of note, including the Watching Creek wildfire.

Three other fires of note are burning within the Kamloops Fire Centre, including the Nohomin Creek wildfire northwest of Lytton (3,700 hectares burned), the Keremeos Creek fire north of Keremeos (4,250 hectares) and the Maria Creek wildfire northeast of Lillooet (1,000 hectares).

The Kamloops Fire Centre extends from the northern border of Wells Gray Provincial Park to the U.S. border in the south, and from the Bridge River Glacier west of Gold Bridge to the Monashee Mountains east of Lumby.

The wildfire of note designation is given by the BC Wildfire Service to fires that are particularly visible or pose a risk to life or property.

The province has seen 154 fire starts in the past seven days, three-quarters of which were started by lightning. To date, 528 fires have burned more than 22,000 hectares in B.C.

But that figure is far below what was seen in 2021, when more than 1,300 fires were burning at this time and 25 times the amount of land (570,784 hectares) had burned.

Neil McLoughlin, BC Wildfire Service superintendent of predictive services, said the difference is due to the weather.

"This is mostly due to the above normal over-winter precipitation amounts, cool temperatures in the spring, late snowmelt and, really, a late start to the fire season this year," he said.

Looking ahead into August, however, McLoughlin said the province is likely to return to above-seasonal temperatures.

McLoughlin said the forecast for above-average temperatures is higher in Eastern Canada, but noted B.C. won't be off the hook when it comes to heat. He also said there's no clear signal for precipitation, either, which is typically difficult to predict.

In terms of wildfire activity, McLoughlin said he expects there to be about 150 new fire starts per week in August.

Historically, the province has seen between 50 and 700 new fire starts per week during August.

Forests Minister Katrina Conroy encouraged residents to download the BC Wildfire Service app to report wildfires. She said the wildfire service received 81 reports of fires, 57 of which included photos, over the long weekend.

"It's really helpful to the firefighters and it really helps with the rapid operational decision making," she said.

Reminder to campers

A campfire ban for the entire Kamloops Fire Centre was implemented at noon on Aug. 4. The campfire ban is addition to other open burning bans enacted earlier this summer.

To learn more about the different categories of open burning, visit the Open Burning webpage.

Anyone found in contravention of an open burning prohibition may be issued a ticket for $1,150, required to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000 or, if convicted in court, fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.

To report a wildfire or unattended campfire, please call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on your cell phone. For more information about fire bans or restrictions, visit bcwildfire.ca.