All day Saturday, the air was hazy with smoke from wildfires surrounding the West Kootenay area and although there are a couple fires burning relatively close by, the smoke came from much farther.
Jordan Turner, forest information officer at the Southeast Fire Centre, which covers the Trail area, says the smoke from this past weekend made its way into the region all the way from large fires burning in the Okanagan and a few other places.
“We’ve actually been experiencing smoke on and off from many different areas from the province and outside,” he said on Monday adding that there is a chance of more smoky skies on the way.
“There are large fires that are all far away but because of weather systems and wind patterns, we are experiencing that smoke. Considering a lot of these fires are still very active, this will be something that will be happening for the foreseeable future.
“This week we are predicting haze and smoke coming from fires in eastern Washington state.”
There are two fires, both believed to have been started by lightning, burning in Slocan Valley, but smoke from those fires hasn’t affected the area even though the fires have collectively more than doubled in size since Friday.
“There is the Enterprise Creek fire and the Monument Creek fire,” said Turner, mentioning that the fires started at a total of 13.5 hectares on Friday. “They are estimated at 14.5 hectares each [as of Monday].”
The fires are currently being fought by 55 firefighters and plenty of air support.
“Right now, on the Enterprise fire, we have 30 firefighters on the ground and on the Monument fire, we have 25 firefighters on the ground,” said Turner. “We also had a lot of air support because of the steep terrain under the fires. It was difficult to gain ground access so we had a lot of air tankers working on it.”
Turner assures that the two fires are still very remote and currently pose no danger to any buildings or communities.
Turner says there is a chance of some thunderstorms coming through the area this coming week, and he has his fingers crossed for some precipitation to accompany the expected lightning, the natural firestarter.
“We are hitting a cooling period right now, but with that we are expecting some lightning in the middle of the week and hopefully that will come with a lot of rain,” said Turner, who is keeping an eye out for potential lightning started fires over the next few days. “We are going to monitor and make sure that none of the smaller fires that may start this week become anything significant.”
Ron Lakeman of the Castlegar weather office confirmed Turner’s prediction.
“We are looking at a system coming in from the coast and it is expected to start producing isolated thunderstorms into Tuesday morning,” he said on Monday afternoon. “The thunderstorms are going to be of the drier variety, so there could be rain in some spots, but it could still start a few fires with lightning.”
Lakeman predicts on and off sun and cloud and severe thunderstorms for the rest of the week. The rain should be a welcome visitor since there has only been one day so far this month with measurable rainfall. On July 14, Trail had slightly more than 1.4 centimetres of rain.