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Driest spring on record in Central and North Okanagan fuels fire concerns

Click to play video: 'Driest spring on record fuels forest  fire concerns in the Central Okanagan' Driest spring on record fuels forest fire concerns in the Central Okanagan
Driest spring on record fuels forest fire concerns in the Central Okanagan

The dry conditions across the Okanagan have increased the fire risk.

With very little rain, spring 2021 has so far gone down in the record books,

“This has been the driest spring on record for the central and north Okanagan,” said lobal Okanagan meteorologist Peter Quinlan.

“We’ve just had tinder dry conditions, only 13.5 mm of rain reported at the Kelowna airport when normally there’s about 85. That’s just about 16 per cent of normal for that spring period.”

Read more: Increased concern for drought and wildfires in B.C.: How climate change could be playing a role

That has pushed the fire danger rating up across parts of the Okanagan.

At the base of Knox Mountain in Kelowna Monday morning, the fire danger rating was listed as extreme.

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At the base of Rose Valley Regional Park in West Kelowna, it was listed as high. It was extreme last week.

“It’s something we watch very closely,” said West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund. ” Hot temperatures combined with extreme fire danger and wind is really a watch-out circumstance for for us”

The dry conditions have kept wildfire crews busy.

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There have been almost three times the number of fires this year compared to last.

The B.C. Wildfire Service has responded to 88 fires in the Kamloops Fire Centre, which covers the Okanagan, since April 1 compared to 30 in 2020.

“We have not received as much precipitation as normal, which means deeper fuels are drying out earlier than usual and these deeper fuels are more difficult to control and extinguish,” said fire information officer Taylor MacDonald.

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As the temperatures and the dryness increase, so to do measures to reduce the fire risk.

Starting at noon on Friday, June 11, Category 2 and 3 fires will be banned in the region, which is any open burning other than a campfire.

The prohibition also extends to fireworks, sky lanterns and burn barrels.

Read more: Open burning banned in Penticton due to ‘expected rapid wildfire development’

Brolund said the local fire department is ready to spring into action and he urged the public to do the same.

“We all have a role to play when it comes to getting ready for wildfires in our region,” he said.

Brolund is strongly recommending people follow FireSmart principles to get themselves and their properties ready for forest fire season.

“It might mean having a plan in place in case fire affects your home, a grab and go bag,” Brolund said. ‘That you’re ready to go if you have to be evacuated but it could also be actions you take in advance of a fire like preparing your home, so that he can better withstand wildfire and give firefighters a chance to protect it.”

West Kelowna residents who take FireSmart actions on their properties are also eligible for a $500 government grant.

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“It’s not very often the government saying we’re giving away free money but in this case it’s really quite simple for people to take some actions and get reimbursed for them,” he said.

Click here for more information on the FireSmart program and the grants being made available.

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