Hot weather and anticipated winds continue to create challenges for crews battling several wildfires around B.C., but expected rainfall could bring some much-needed relief.
“We’ve had a fairly exceptionally hot and dry few weeks really over the last month or so, about six to 10 degrees above average in terms of the temperature, and many parts of the province haven’t seen much rain if any for a few weeks now,” said Kevin Skrepnek, chief fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service.
Two of those fires in B.C.’s Southern Interior have prompted both evacuation orders and evacuation alerts.
The Xusum Creek fire, about 35 kilometres west of Lillooet, is about 25 per cent contained, but remained out of control as of Sunday, according to the wildfire service.
Fire information officer Brenna Ward said fire crews are concerned about boaters on nearby Anderson Lake.
“We’ve had a number of issues of the public operating watercraft in close proximity to helicopters bucketing water out of Anderson Lake,” she said.
“We are really urging recreation seekers to just stay very far away, give the helicopters enough room to work, give the crews enough room to work,” she said.
A handful of properties along Highline Road have been given an evacuation order, and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is maintaining an evacuation alert for several more.
Sixty-four firefighters are on the ground, supported by a trio of helicopters and three pieces of heavy equipment.
Ward added that a wind warning is in place, which could cause more headaches for crews trying to contain the 500-hectare fire.
An evacuation order for about a dozen properties also remains in place for the 2,700-hectare Allie Lake wildfire.
That fire, burning about 55 kilometres north of Kamloops, is also classified as out of control and is zero per cent contained.
Fire information officer Heather Rice said more than 135 personnel, along with helicopters and air skimmers, are battling the flames, and have held the fire to about the same size as yesterday.
“There’s a forecast in place calling for gusting winds of up to 50 km/hr from the southwest, so that could challenge our crews, but they’re working very hard at keeping it in its current perimeter,” she said.
Both fires are believed to have been human-caused, as there was no lightning reported in the area, the Wildfire Service said.
Two new wildfires also sprung up on Sunday. A two hectare fire is burning about eight kilometres east of the Upper Pitt River Hatchery, while an eight hectrare fire is also burning about 27 kilometres northwest of Merritt.
Officials said it was too soon to say how big that fire is.
Farther to the north, the massive 20,000-hectare Tommy Lakes fire continues to burn out of control, about 150 kilometres north of Fort St. John.
The province closed access to Crown land surrounding the fire on Sunday evening.
The fire is thought to have been lightning-caused, and Skrepnek said it is in a very remote area and not currently threatening any structures.
Skrepnek said Mother Nature may offer some help to crews battling the fires to the south, but it’s not clear whether the dry conditions will persist into the early summer.
“It looks like Wednesday the southern half of the province is going to get a fairly good soaking of rain,” he said.
“That will get us a bit of relief, but June is typically a fairly wet month, so we really are going to have to monitor day by day how much rain we get between now and Canada Day. That’s going to have a big effect not only on the current situation but also what the rest of the summer looks like.”
More than 200 fires have been recorded since April 1.