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Despite the heat, BC Wildfire Service expects average fire season

Last Updated May 8, 2020 at 10:44 pm PDT

FILE - Canada’s June wildfire forecast severity rating is well above average according to Natural Resources Canada. However, the B.C. Wildfire Service says if we look a little closer, it’s not as bad as you might think. (CityNews photo)
Summary

Friday, May 8 has been a record-breaking day for temperatures in some spots in the province.

Despite April being very dry, the Wildfire Service says the last month saw only 100 fires, which is below average

ANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Friday, May 8 has been a record-breaking day for temperatures in some spots in the province.

Pitt Meadows got up to 27 degrees and in White Rock, it was 25. Squamish Airport recorded a high of 27, which was the hottest spot in Canada.

The mini-heatwave follows a drier-than-normal April, especially in Prince George, which had its driest April on record.

The early spike in temperatures is very similar to a BC-wide heatwave at exactly this time last year, when several communities saw record temperatures.

Within days, major forest fires erupted, namely a large fire east of Fraser Lake, which prompted an evacuation and a local state of emergency.

Despite the similarities, though, the BC Wildfire Service is not anticipating an early start to the fire season this year.

“Things are drying out,” points out Fire Information Officer Hannah Swift.

“However, over the next couple of months we will be seeing a green-up across the province. As we do get rain in the spring, we will see things cool back down. So this could be a high risk time.”

In fact, it’s been a quiet season, as far as the numbers go.

“Since April 1, we’ve seen 111 fires. When you look at the ten-year average, we usually have 150 fires by now. So we are actually below that at this point,” says Swift. A little over 80 per cent of them were human caused.

“Typically lightning accounts for more fires, but lightning is not common in the spring. When we say human-caused it could be from heavy equipment or people in the backcountry.”

The fire service is always on the lookout for trends that could put forests in jeopardy. On its website, it says seasonal temperature forecasts for the month of May show temperature extremes are unlikely. It anticipates normal to dry weather patterns throughout the province this month.

Predicting even further into the summer months is even more difficult.

“The fire season in BC is highly dependent on the May and June rains. So it’s hard to say what the season is going to look like. At this point we are expecting normal fire conditions,” says Swift.

The very warm temperatures in the Lower Mainland will last until Monday, with highs expected to 26 degrees on Sunday in Vancouver and 29 degrees in Abbotsford on Saturday and Sunday.