The Columbia Valley is set for warm, dry conditions this summer compared with past years. According to AccuWeather, the conditions will have far more serious impact than simply allowing people to get out to the beach more regularly.
The unusually warm winter of 2014/15 across western Canada resulted in the survival of a large population of Pine Bark Beetles.
“The beetle has been causing tremendous damage to western forests, making them more susceptible to devastating wildfires,” the most recent report from AccuWeather read.
In tandem with the beetles, AccuWeather is predicting a high number of thunderstorms in the area, which will lead to dry lightning strikes. The strikes are known to cause fires.
According to the Southeast Fire Centre, the dry weather conditions are indeed a cause for extra concern about forest fires.
“So far in May, we have had just 50 per cent of the normal precipitation from past years,” Fire Information Officer Sandy Bernard said. “It is quite dry out there, so people should be extra alert.”
In response to an increased number of fires during the last month, Bernard said the Fire Centre decided to institute a category two and category three fire ban on May 22. Only small campfires are now permitted.
“Even when you are lighting a campfire, you still need to check venting and wind,” Bernard said. “If the wind is strong enough that it could carry embers or sparks then it is just not a good time for fire.”
Bernard said the recent fire trend can be mitigated by increased attention and preparedness.
“All of our fires so far this year have been caused by humans,” Bernard said. “I think what happens in a lot of cases is that people are surprised by the wind and they are just not prepared to deal with how fast fire spreads.”
As the temperature continues to rise this summer, residents are asked to stay current with warnings to find out what sort of fire is permitted. Bernard said that the Fire Centre will have to play it by ear in terms of preparing for forest fires, since long-term weather predictions rarely reliably forecast weather for more than a few days in advance.
“We have a good idea of what to expect in the short-term,” Bernard said, “but we are always prepared for fire season.”