Hot, dry weather could elevate B.C. forest fire risk
VANCOUVER - Destructive wildfires that have scorched nearly 2,000 square kilometres in British Columbia and dwarfed the province's firefighting budget could flare up this week with warmer dry weather in the forecast, says the B.C. Forest Service.
There are still nearly 150 forest fires burning across the province and at least five of them have prompted evacuation orders keeping residents from their homes.
And while the current wildfire situation appears to have eased since July, when thousands of homes across B.C. were under evacuation, Isabelle Jacques of the B.C. Forest Service said there is still more than a month left in the traditional fire season.
"A lot of progress has been accomplished, but then we've seen new fires start affecting communities once again and there's a warming and drying pattern that's going to kick in this week," Jacques said Tuesday.
Jacques said the fire season typically lasts until the end of September or the beginning of October.
The latest evacuations were ordered Monday near the community of Sorrento, east of Kamloops, where the Notch Hill fire is now keeping 160 people out of their homes.
That blaze, which was discovered last Friday and is believed to have been caused by lightening, covers almost five square kilometres. It's considered 40 per cent contained.
Another fire causing problems for crews is the Kelly Creek fire, near the town of Clinton, which increased in size overnight as strong winds fanned the flames.
The fire was estimated at 110 square kilometres, and has caused local officials to issue evacuation orders affecting about 100 people.
The fire risk is considered moderate to extreme for about 75 per cent of the province, Jacques said.
Campfire bans remain in effect for much of the southern half of B.C., although restrictions in some areas have been relaxed recently.
The 2009 fire season has been far more active than the average year.
So far, fires have burnt 1,720 square kilometres, more than double the average from the past seven years.
As of Tuesday, the cost of fighting the fires had reached $253 million and is currently growing by as much as $5 million a day.
The province had set aside $62 million for the entire year, and has cited the ballooning cost of fighting the fires as a major concern as it prepares to update its budget on Sept. 1.