Few forest fires to start the season

Early summer rains have had at least one upside in the Columbia Valley. Fire information officers at the Southeast Fire Centre are reporting a significant drop in number of blazes in the Invermere area so far this year.

Early summer rains have had at least one upside in the Columbia Valley. Fire information officers at the Southeast Fire Centre are reporting a significant drop in number of blazes in the Invermere area so far this year.

Erin Catherall, an officer with the centre, says the area has seen seven fires so far this year. Two were started by lightning, while the rest were person-caused. In 2010, there were 24 fires in the same period, with 17 due to lightning and 7 because of human activity.

“Definitely we’ve had a lot more rain over the months of May and June, which has helped decrease fire activity,” says Catherall. But she says it’s difficult to predict whether that trend will continue through the rest of the summer.

“Things can change really quickly depending on weather conditions, and things can change even within three days of an event. We can’t really say how we think things will pan out. But as of right now it has been a slower start to the season.”

Fire activity has been slow across the southeast region, with 27 fires reported to date compared to 43 by this time in 2010.

“But we’re just at the beginning of the summer months, and weather will definitely play a big role in the fire activity,” says Catherall, adding the centre is still urging people to take care when enjoying campfires or engaging in backyard burning.

A ban on open fires has been issued by the Fire Centre. It doesn’t apply to campfires that are a half-metre tall by half-metre wide or smaller, barbecues or similar outdoor cooking devices. It does, however, prohibit the use of fireworks and the burning of waste, stubble or grass.

The ban covers provincial parks, as well as crown and private land, but isn’t in effect within the boundaries of local governments that have forest fire prevention bylaws and fire department service.