West Kelowna fire official predicting ‘very active’ wildfire season

Click to play video: 'Cattle to be used to mitigate wildfire risks in the Okanagan' Cattle to be used to mitigate wildfire risks in the Okanagan
WATCH: Cattle used to mitigate wildfire risk. – Oct 28, 2020

A top West Kelowna fire official is predicting 2021 will shape up to be a “very active” fire season.

There have been a handful of grassfires in the area already this month, including two in West Kelowna on Saturday afternoon alone.

Read more: West Kelowna fire crews battle, extinguish 2 grass fires at opposite ends of city

Pat Harmata, a fire suppression captain with West Kelowna Fire Rescue, said when West Kelowna starts experiencing grassfires in early March, it tends to lead to a busier season.

Harmata said right now the fire hazard is still low, but with not much snow at lower elevations and frequent windy conditions, the area is quickly moving towards a high fire risk.

The fire captain said the wind dries out the fuels so fine-fuels at lower elevations are already ready to burn.

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Saturday’s grassfires were both human-caused. One was sparked by a carelessly discarded cigarette and the other by an unattended campfire.

That has Harmata urging people to take precautions: avoid smoking in the backcountry, make sure recreational vehicles are well maintained so they aren’t producing sparks, and report any wildfires.

There are currently three active wildfires burning around the province.

One north-west of Merritt is 11 hectares in size but considered contained.

Read more: Three early-season wildfires in B.C. Interior under control

Earlier this month, after three small grass fires sparked around the region in one weekend, the BC Wildfire Service said that type of fire activity is typical for this time of year.

A fire information officer pointed out that conditions are often right for a fire to start before the grass “greens up” in the spring.

– with files from Shelby Thom

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