B.C. Wildfire Service 'carefully monitoring' Kamloops, Kelowna areas this month | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. Wildfire Service 'carefully monitoring' Kamloops, Kelowna areas this month

FILE PHOTO - Retardant is dropped on a wildfire near Horseshoe Bay in the North Shuswap, May 1, 2022.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

The B.C. Wildfire Service says it is monitoring areas around Kamloops, Cranbrook and Kelowna this month as April precipitation numbers were well below normal levels.

The service published its first monthly forecast of the season, May 4, and expects normal fire conditions throughout the province for May.

The 2021 fire season ended with elevated drought conditions in the far north, southeast, and central interior of B.C. Prolonged drought at the end of a fire season increases potential for fire activity the following spring, according to the service.

READ MORE: Dry April unusual in Okanagan but not so much for Kamloops

“Fortunately, there was sufficient overwinter precipitation to recover drought conditions throughout most of the province."

With Kamloops, Kelowna and Cranbrook having less precipitation than average, the wildfire service is carefully monitoring those areas.

“Numerous fires have occurred in valley bottoms this spring where light fuels such as grass and leaf litter dry out quickly in warm and windy conditions,” according to the service.

While the provincial outlook is favorable for this month, wildfire activity could increase in locations that continue to receive below normal precipitation and at mid-elevations as snow melts.

The number of April 2022 wildfires matched historical averages but the total area burned was only 35% of the 25-year average.

April’s temperatures were below normal and the northern region of the province saw above normal precipitation. An increased snowpack and delayed melt lessen the chance of lightning ignitions at mid and upper elevations, according to the wildfire service.

The number of wildfires in April also matched historical averages. Wildfires across the province, including the 18.5 hectare fire in the North Shuswap, are currently under control. All 10 current active fires are suspected to be human caused. A total of 92 wildfires have been reported in B.C. this year so far.

READ MORE: Wildfire in North Shuswap now being held

The spring fire risk will decrease in the coming weeks as grass becomes greener and deciduous trees and shrubs leaf out.

Rainfall patterns during the spring and summer have a significant influence on the severity of the wildfire season in B.C. In the spring, as snow melts, light surface fuels tend to dry quickly. So, despite cooler conditions and some influence from spring freshet, fires in pine needles and grasses can travel quickly under strong, dry winds, according to the service.

If rainfall is received periodically throughout the spring and into June, larger fuels, requiring longer drying periods, are much less likely to ignite limiting fires to mostly fine fuels, according to the wildfire service.

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