As another fire season approaches, the BC Wildfire Service said it’s tough to tell how bad things will get until summer arrives.
In its spring outlook, the wildfire service said April was abnormally dry, including Prince George’s driest April on record. Despite the dry month, the number of new fires remained low due to deep snowpack and periodic rain.
The wildfire service said normal fire conditions should be expected in May, with no extreme temperatures likely to occur and precipitation expected to make for normal to dry conditions, according to the report.
“At this time of year, it’s always really difficult to predict what we’re going to see,” BC Wildfire Service fire information officer Kyla Fraser said.
Fraser said much of the severity of the summer wildfire season is based on the amount of rain that falls between the Victoria Day long weekend and the Canada Day long weekend.
“And that’s really hard to predict,” she said. “Even if we see drier conditions and higher temperatures, it really depends on how much rain we get.”
Although the BC Wildfire Service’s predictions do not go into coming months, Natural Resource Canada’s (NRCAN) Canadian Wildland Fire Information System does provide longer-term forecasts.
Although May shows little need for worry, June’s forecast puts nearly every inch of B.C. in the red, or “well above average” in terms of how severe the fire season could be.
That information is presented by NRCAN on a series of maps. The best indicator for a seasonal forecast, according to NRCAN fire research analyst Richard Carr, is the forecast severity anomaly map.
“In places like southern B.C., it’s normally quite hot and dry in the summer, so you might always have high values when you look at the forecast severity rating. But the anomaly will tell you if it’s going to be higher than normal for that region,” Carr told KTW.
And it is — at least for June. July’s forecast shows the southernmost parts of B.C., including Kamloops but not including Vancouver Island, as merely “above average.” In August, most of the Interior returns to the worst red rating.
The maps are generated each month and take a number of factors and models into consideration, including temperature and rainfall patterns, moisture content in the forest floor, winter precipitation, climate models and historical data.
Carr also said that June rainfall levels will be what prevents fire activity from happening.
“But if it’s dry through part of June, you might get fairly volatile conditions,” he said.
This week’s forecast for Kamloops calls for sunny skies and highs between 22 C and 24 C into the long weekend, with 30 per cent chance of showers mid-week.
Daily fire danger maps can be seen online at https://cwfis.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/maps/fw.