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Lightning sparks nearly 100 wildfires in BC as crews prepare for busy season

Last Updated Jun 21, 2018 at 3:31 pm PST

FILE: An undated photo showing a BC Wildfire Service member. (Courtesy BC Wildfire Service)

Weather plays a factor as dozens of small fires pop up in parts of BC

Crews gear up for a potentially busy season with wildfire season around the corner

KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) – Following a heatwave that covered most of the province, you may be wondering where our wildfire danger rating sits right now, especially compared to last year’s record-setting season.

The BC Wildfire Service confirms in the early part of this week, the province saw significant lightning activity which resulted in nearly 100 new fires.

Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek says crews got a bit of a scare on Wednesday when lightning storms swept across many areas of the Interior and Vancouver Island.

It was a similar set-up that launched last year’s record fire season. “As I said, most of them never made it and [were] a small size. We’ve been able to get on them before they’ve had a chance to grow into anything of huge concern.”

He adds last year’s season erupted in much drier conditions with more prolonged heat but notes we’re still a few weeks away from when the fire situation can get really bad.

“Last year, July 6, 7, 8 when we saw a real upturn in activity, it was much warmer, much drier [and] the conditions were much more volatile, that’s definitely the difference we’re seeing comparing last year to this year.”

There are more thunderstorms in the forecast and Skrepnek thinks it could continue to spark new fires. “We do expect to see additional fire starts over the next few days. Our saving grace right now is we did have a fairly wet and cool few weeks at the start of June, which is fairly typical. Since them we have had a week of fairly hot and dry temperatures leading up to this point, so that has dried out the finer fuels in the forest and that’s why these fires are starting.”

On Thursday, the service added to the list, saying the Kamloops Fire Centre had responded to 11 new fires in the past 24 hours. Two of those fires are contained, while one west of Tunkwa Lake is more than 20 hectares in size and out of control.

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You may remember 2017 was the worst wildfire season on record in BC when more than 1,000 fires scorched nearly 1.2 million hectares of land between April 1 and mid-August. The previous record was set in 1958 when 855,000 hectares of forest burned.

Every year the province sets aside a certain amount of money in the budget to help pay for firefighting costs and every year they burn right through. This year’s budget is just shy of $64 million and for context purposes last year the government spent $568 million.

– With files from Dave White and Lasia Kretzel