The local forecast calls for temperatures in the West Kootenay to hit the mid-30s this week. (Sheri Regnier photo)

The local forecast calls for temperatures in the West Kootenay to hit the mid-30s this week. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Heat wave coming to the Kootenays

Not record-breaking temps in the Kootenays, but locals advised to take caution outdoors

Yes, a heat wave is coming to the Kootenays this week.

But it’ll be what locals are used to in mid-July and nothing record-breaking according to the local forecast.

“It depends on how you define hot weather in the summer,” began Ron Lakeman from the Southeast Fire Centre office in Castlegar. “If you are a long time resident then it’s going to be a few hot and dry days, but that happens every summer.”

Record daily temperatures for mid-July have peaked at 37 C to 38 C in the West Kootenay region.

“Basically we are expecting highs to be somewhere in the 34 to 35 degree range,” said Lakeman. “So for residents of the Trail, Castlegar, and Nelson area … this does look like a relatively normal heat wave if you will, so we are not too, too concerned with it being a record by any means.”

With unsettled conditions and some rain the past few weeks, campfires are still permitted in the southeast region and forest use remains unrestricted.

A spate of dry climate could change all that before month-end, however.

“If we look at the hazard last year on this date versus this year, we are far below the curve,” Lakeman said. “We’ve been fairly lucky so far, but fire season is still quite young. Now that we are into a hotter, drier pattern, the hazard will definitely increase, so there could be some further restrictions put on in the near future.”

Of the 650 wildfires across B.C. and 51,000-hectares burnt this season, 52 were in the southeast centre with 108 hectares burnt.

With any heat wave, record-breaking or not, warnings and advisories are typically issued for those who may be susceptible to high temperatures. Infants and children up to four years of age and seniors 65 years or older are at higher risk of heat-related illness.

To prevent heat-related illness, Interior Health advises the public to plan outdoor activity before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., which is when the sun’s Ultraviolet radiation is the weakest. IH says to drink plenty of fluids and stay indoors in air-conditioned buildings.

When recognized early, most mild heat-related illnesses, sometimes called heat exhaustion, can be treated at home. Notably, mild heat exhaustion does not cause changes in mental alertness.

IH advises that a health care provider be consulted if someone experiences problems with mental alertness after being in the heat.

Home treatment for mild heat exhaustion may include moving to a cooler environment, drinking plenty of cool, non-alcoholic fluids, resting and taking a cool shower or bath.

If symptoms are not mild, last longer than one hour, change or worsen, contact a medical professional.

And, the general rule of thumb for pets is, if it’s too hot for people then it’s too hot for animals.

Water bowls should be full and easily accessible and pets are best off indoors.

BCSPCA recommends that pet owners keep their animal’s exercise to a minimum in the heat and limit walks to early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are cooler.

If a dog shows symptoms of heat stroke, it should be immediately moved to a shady place, wet with cool water, and fanned vigorously to promote evaporation. (This will cool the blood, which reduces the animal’s core temperature.)

“Your dog will be much happier – and safer – at home, with shade and plenty of fresh cool water,” says the BCSPCA’s Lorie Chortyk. “It is such a preventable tragedy.”