Early start to wildfire season in Southern Interior, numbers still below 10-year average | Kamloops News | iNFOnews

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Early start to wildfire season in Southern Interior, numbers still below 10-year average

B.C. Wildfire crews took part in a controlled burn at Kenna Cartwright Park in Kamloops earlier this season.
April 20, 2015 - 1:04 PM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - A series of wildfires were ignited this past weekend as dry weather combined with warming temperatures to create conditions ideal for human-caused fires.

B.C. Wildfire crews responded to four fires over the weekend, two in the Kamloops part of the fire centre and two in the southern tip.

Information Officer Kayla Pepper says they received six calls over the weekend but not all needed action. Of the four requiring action the Chopaka Road fire, not far from the United States border, was the largest at 80 hectares — part of which was a permitted open burn.

“We were aware of it on the 11th,” Pepper says. “Crews actioned it Saturday and Sunday, and will head out again today.”

Crews were also called out to Ashnola Fire Service Road southwest of Keremeos on Saturday afternoon. The 13.2-ha wildfire is still burning in steep terrain but Pepper says there are natural barriers crews will be utilizing to help contain the fire.

Sunday had crews called out to two smaller fires near Kamloops. One was at Greenstone Mountain in an area only accessible to recreation vehicles. Natural barriers in the area may be used today as crews return to monitor the fire, which is just over one hectare in size.

Later Sunday evening crews attended a 1.7-hectare fire south of Clearwater on Dunn Lake Road. Six wildfire personnel worked with the local fire department and Pepper says the fire was also human-caused but she is unsure at this time if it began as an open burn.

The Clearwater fire was the only one close to any structures, though no structures were ultimately impacted.

Pepper says there have't been any other fires over a hectare in size since the 11-ha one on Starshine Way Road near Missezula Lake on April 11.

The cooler nights have helped keep fire activity at bay and with temperatures forecast to hit the mid-20s Monday and Tuesday, Pepper says they are hoping for precipitation later in the week.

Despite the dry conditions Pepper says the number of fires are actually down significantly from last year and are even below the 10-year average for April. Since April 1 there have been 11 fires in the Kamloops Fire Centre, down from 38 last year and the average of 20.

“We’re below average in April for the fire activity we’ve seen, but we were above average in March,” she says. “Possibly because conditions we normally experience in April we experienced earlier this year.”

This past March the fire centre responded to 14 wildfires, up from the average of seven. Pepper notes fire behaviour is a lot more aggressive than what crews normally see this early in the season.

Pepper reminds people to call B.C. Wildfire at 1-800-663-5555 toll-free, or *5555 on a cellphone, if they see an uncontrolled fire or even if they see smoke and aren’t sure if it is controlled.

She also asks people doing spring cleaning to be fire smart.

“It’s still spring, it’s still a really good time to do fire smart work. Apply a fire smart lens to (your property),” Pepper says, noting many districts allow open burning until May 15. “If planning to do yard cleanup please make sure you’re taking all precautions and make sure the fire doesn't spread and have the appropriate tools on hand.

“If you’re not confident you can keep the fire controlled, maybe rethink lighting it.”

Meanwhile wildfire crews, regional districts and local municipalities continue to work on fuel management treatments including thinning and prescribed burns while open burning still remains an option.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infonews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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