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Expert warns of ‘extreme fire danger’ as heat wave pushes B.C. wildfire risk to dangerous levels

Click to play video: 'Heat wave pushes up B.C. wildfire risk' Heat wave pushes up B.C. wildfire risk
UBC professor of forestry Lori Daniels discusses the increased risk for wildfires brought on by soaring temperatures. – Jun 30, 2021

The unprecedented heat wave in B.C. has pushed the risk of wildfire to dangerous levels, according to a University of British Columbia professor.

Lori Daniels, a professor with UBC’s department of forest and conservation sciences, said the fire danger rating for nearly the entire province is classified as either high or extreme and that British Columbians need to do everything they can to avoid any activity that could spark a fire.

“Now is the time to be very, very careful about fire,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Dramatic timelapse of fast-moving B.C. wildfire burning near Kamloops during sunset' Dramatic timelapse of fast-moving B.C. wildfire burning near Kamloops during sunset
Dramatic timelapse of fast-moving B.C. wildfire burning near Kamloops during sunset – Jun 30, 2021

According to Daniels, B.C.’s current fire danger map looks similar to maps from August 2017 and August 2018, two of the worst wildfire seasons on record.

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BC Wildfire Service. BC Wildfire Service

Daniels said the province had a drier than normal spring with parts of B.C.’s Interior receiving one-fifth of their normal rainfall during May and June.

“We put this heat on top of it and we’re in an extreme fire danger and we’re seeing that now with fires starting in different parts of the province,” she said.

Crews are trying to get the upper hand on the Sparks Lake wildfire burning 15 kilometres north of Kamloops.

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The fire has exploded to 4,000 hectares in size — up from 2,300 ha earlier in the day — and it’s still out of control.

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The heat has been a huge challenge, causing engines to overheat on multiple helicopters.

Another aerial view of the Sparks Lake wildfire burning west of Kamloops. The photo was taken on June 29. B.C. Wildfire Service

According to the BC Wildfire Service, 56 firefighters are on scene, along with 10 helicopters and two pieces of heavy equipment.

“This is now a 24-=hour operation and there will be crews on site day and night,” said BC Wildfire Service, adding it will be adjusting resources to match the fire activity.

Read more: Soaring temps push western wildfire risk into ‘extremely extreme’ uncharted territory, experts say

The Mckay Creek wildfire near Lillooet is now estimated at 5,000 hectares. An evacuation order has been issued for some properties along West Pavilion Road.

The BC Wildfire Services says it is suspected that the fire is human-caused.

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Twenty-four firefighters are battling the blaze, along with four helicopters and five pieces of heavy equipment.

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The George Road wildfire is 350 hectares in size and is burning out of control seven kilometres south of Lytton, the small B.C. community that has set all-time Canadian heat records three days in a row.

Two evacuation alerts related to the George Road blaze have been rescinded.

In northeastern B.C., a lightning-caused fire has closed Highway 97 in both directions 114 kilometres south of Fort Nelson. Conditions were so intense crews have been forced to return to the Kamloops area.

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