Wildfires numbers trending below average

The fire danger rating in Sun Peaks has been low or very low for the majority of summer. - Photo Jamie Shinkewski
The fire danger rating in Sun Peaks has been low or very low for the majority of summer. – Photo Jamie Shinkewski

Rainy weather and fewer lightning strikes have contributed to a fire season that is well below average, according to fire information officer Kelsey Winter.

As of July 28, the Kamloops Fire Centre saw 112 fires burning 248 hectares, well below the 2015 totals of 305 fires over 4,874 ha or the 10 year average of 262 fires over 3,130 ha.

“It’s really the whole province that’s seen a downturn in fire activity this season. We definitely had some action in the Northwest and Prince George Fire Centres early on in the spring, but it’s been quiet pretty much throughout the whole province this year so it’s not just typical to Kamloops,” Winter said.

A major reason for the reduced fire totals has been fewer lightning-caused fires. Last year at this time there had been 158 fires caused by lightning in the Kamloops Fire Centre, accounting for 60 per cent of the blazes, whereas this year there have been 45 lightning-caused fires which is 40 per cent of the fires.

The wildfires have also been much smaller in size so far in 2016. The largest fire in the Kamloops fire Centre was the Pike Mountain Road fire near Merritt, which grew to 92.5 ha but has since been put out. By comparison, the Testalinden Creek fire near Oliver grew to 5,133 ha last August.

“So far most of them have remained under spot size so we haven’t had very many project fires, which are the fires that grow larger than 10 hectares in size,” Winter said.

The month of July was also significantly wetter in Sun Peaks in 2016. The Cahilty weather station, the closest to the resort, measured 69.80 millimetres in 2016 compared to 28.60 mm in 2015. The fire danger rating for the area has been very low or low for most of the summer and had not risen above moderate at press time.

As a result of the increased rain and decreased fire activity, a campfire ban has yet to be implemented. However, Winter said it’s still possible should the conditions change. It’s late in the season for a campfire ban, but one has been previously implemented as late as Sept. 18.

“It’s really hard to say because we don’t know what the weather’s going to do more than seven to 10 days out at a time,” Winter said. “It’s definitely late for us to be instituting the ban, but it’s still possible for sure.”

Nonetheless, officials are urging the public to be careful with fire use to reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires. Fire wardens discovered 21 abandoned campfires during the BC Day long weekend.