Wet weather dampens fire season

A record amount of rain fall earlier in the year is still managing to keep the current forest fire season as one of the slowest ever.

Hot weather continues to bake the region but a record amount of rain fall earlier in the year is still managing to keep the current forest fire season as one of the slowest ever.

Last year the Southeast Fire Centre—which includes the Greater Trail region—had the slowest fire season on record in 50 years with 132 fires and 62 hectares burned.

At this point last year there were only 28 fires, but the current wet Kootenay weather is threatening to break that pace with only 26 fires having burned to date.

Although those fires have doubled the number of hectares burned already compared to last year (166 ha. to 62 ha.), there probably won’t be a surge in forest fires this year unless the weather adds dryness into its hot mix, said Southeast Fire Centre fire information officer Karlie Shaughnessy.

“If we see a lot of hot dry weather over the next few weeks we could see a (campfire) ban,” she said. “But there is too much moisture still in the duff.”

All of the thunder and lightning storms have been accompanied by large amount of rain, she added, with no dry lightning storms causing forest fires.

On Friday, July 13, all category two and three open fires were prohibited within the Southeast Fire Centre to help prevent human-caused wildfires and protect public safety.

The prohibition will remain in place until Wednesday, Sept. 19, or until the public is otherwise notified.

Specifically, this prohibits the burning of any waste, slash or other material, the burning of stubble or grass, and the use of fireworks or burning barrels of any size or description in the areas outside of municipal boundaries.

Open burning is not allowed in the City of Trail, as are fireworks.

The prohibition does not include campfires, gas or propane cooking stoves or briquettes. This prohibition also does not apply to a resource management open fire, including those conducted for agricultural purposes.

Campfires must not be larger than 0.5 metres by 0.5 metres in size.

People lighting a campfire must maintain a fireguard by removing flammable debris from around the campfire area and must have a hand tool or at least eight litres of water available nearby to properly extinguish the fire.

This prohibition covers all BC Parks, Crown and private lands, but does not apply within the boundaries of local governments that have forest fire prevention bylaws and are serviced by a fire department.

“Please check with civic authorities for any prohibitions before lighting a fire,” said Shaughnessy.

Environment Canada predicts the uncommonly hot weather that has swept through the West Kootenay and across many provinces in recent days is here to stay.

“The longer range models are still indicating that we can expect to see, all the way from the foothills of Alberta, through Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes, warmer than normal conditions for the rest of July and August,” says Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada in a Monday Canadian Press article.

Coulson says the heat increases the chance of thunder storms, such as the one that struck an Ontario community on the weekend.

Seventeen people were sent to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries on Sunday after lightning struck a tent at a local food festival in Whitby, Ont.

Despite a series of powerful storms moving across the U.S. and Canada, Coulson says that such weather is nothing out of the ordinary.

“This is traditionally our busy time of year when it comes to this type of weather,” he says, adding that the U.S. typically sees about 1,000 tornadoes each year, and Canada about 80.

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