Wednesday, July 1, brought with it much rain. Penticton is seen in the distance from the Little Tunnel, above Naramata. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

Heavy rain in Okanagan results in slowest start to fire season in four years

119 hectares of land burned so far this year, compared to 991 ha in 2019, and 3,835 ha in 2018

It’s the mildest start to summer in years, thanks to above average rainfall in the Okanagan.

In relation to this, forest fire numbers in this region are the lowest they have been in at least four years.

Right after the snow melted in early spring, several fires occurred in valley bottoms throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre. However since then rain through the fire centre has lessened fire activity.

So far this season, as of June 30, the BC Wildfire Service has responded to 38 fires in the Kamloops Fire Centre, in total burning 119 hectares (ha) of land.

By this time last year, the service had responded to 92 fires in this region, which had burned 991 ha.

By June 30 in 2018, 111 fires had already burned 3,835 ha.

By this time in 2017, 47 fires had burned 329 ha.

“This year it seems like we’re also off to a fairly quiet start,” said Kyla Fraser, information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, adding that it’s hard to predict what the rest of the summer will bring, as this is very dependent on local weather patterns.

“What’s really important is the amount of rain we see between the May long weekend and the July long weekend, and so far we’ve gotten quite a lot of rain. So hopefully that will help throughout this fire season… We’re continuing to see that periodic rain, things are pretty wet out there right now.”

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Fraser explained that they also saw a slower start to the season in 2017, however did not experience the same level of “June rains” that the Okanagan has this past month. This contributed to the amount of fires that ignited following a lightning event on July 7, as ground fuels were significantly drier.

Two fires (as of June 30) are currently burning in the Lillooet area, one started by lightning. Recent thunderstorms in the Okanagan have been accompanied by rain, which assists in keeping fires caused by strikes, at bay.

Lightning strikes that touch down can combust underground for several days, and pop up later.

“We call those holdover fires; just because the lightning has moved through, sometimes it can start a fire even a few days later, but again because we’ve seen so much rain, it hasn’t had the same impact compared to a dry lightning event, where generally that will start quite a lot of fires,” said Fraser.

The current fire rating in the Kamloops Fire Centre ranges from low to very low.

The BC Wildfire Service recently rescinded their category two burning prohibition, however a category three restriction around the Kamloops Fire Centre is still in place.

Be sure to check with your local government for the most updated local burning restrictions.

For more info visit the BC Wildfire Service online at Gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status.

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Wednesday, July 1, brought with it much rain. Penticton is seen in the distance from the Little Tunnel, above Naramata. (Phil McLachlan - Western News)

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