July 12, 2018 8:53 pm
Updated: July 13, 2018 5:23 pm

Wildfire concerns grow with strong winds, high heat in B.C. forecast

WATCH: The fire danger rating is on the rise across the province this weekend. The hot temperatures putting pressure on wild fire crews. Paul Haysom reports

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It took a little longer than in recent years, but wildfire season appears to have arrived in earnest in B.C.

The BC Wildfire Service reported five new fires on Thursday, the largest of which — near Kamloops — grew to 380 hectares in size in just a few hours.

READ MORE: Wildfire in east Kamloops mapped at 500 hectares

After a damp start to the season, the fire danger rating in the province has also begun to slide from low to moderate in most areas, and high in some parts of B.C.’s north.

That’s likely to get worse over the coming days, with hot, dry weather forecast for much of the province, according to Global BC meteorologist Kristi Gordon.

“The fire danger has gotten much worse with no rain and hotter conditions in just the past 24 hours,” Gordon said. “[On Wednesday] this same map showed mostly blue, or ‘very low’ across southern B.C.”

WATCH: Dozens of crews have scrambled to a fast-moving grass fire in East Kamloops. Kylie Stanton was on the scene:

Temperatures are forecast to top out at 34 degrees by next Tuesday in the central Okanagan.

Complicating matters, Gordon said a dry cold front is expected to slice through the province on Friday.

She said that weather pattern can cause major headaches for firefighters, bringing strong winds with gusts of up to 70 kilometres per hour and dry lightning.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement due to the winds, which are anticipated to be the strongest in the Okanagan, Shuswap, Boundary, Arrow Lakes and Nicola regions.

The strongest winds are expected after the front passes overnight on Friday.

WATCH: Wildfire crews and Kamloops Fire Rescue battling grass fire

The BC Wildfire Service says it’s got its own teams closely watching the weather, and is gearing up for what could be a busy weekend.

“We have our resources attuned to that information, and they’ll be on over the weekend to respond to anything that might pop up throughout the province, especially in the southern half where we’re seeing some significant warm temperatures,” said fire information officer Claire Allen.

Allen said there are currently 51 wildfires burning across the province.

That’s fewer than a third of the 181 that were active this time last summer, and means crews should not find themselves pressed for resources if there is a significant flare-up in fire activity with the hot weather.

However, with temperatures rising, Allen cautioned the public to be extremely careful with any sources of flame.

“We really urge folks to be careful with any kind of fire if they are in the backcountry in order to not divert our resources to human-caused fires,” she said.

READ MORE: Wildfire in east Kamloops balloons to 380 hectares

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