‘Serious weather event’ likely to make B.C. wildfires worse, forecasters warn

There are more than 40 active wildfires burning across the province, primarily in the Prince George Fire Centre, which covers the northeast quarter of the province. Forecasters are worried that unseasonably hot weather forecast for the weekend will exacerbate the situation.

3 homes destroyed by Boundary Lake wildfire in northeast B.C.; oil and gas operations shut down in northeast

Smoke off a mountain.

Forecasters are worried unseasonably hot weather forecast for the weekend will exacerbate an already-unusual wildfire season in northeastern B.C.

John Innes, a professor in the faculty of forestry at the University of British Columbia, says it looks like a "serious weather event'' is occurring, with a ridge of pressure expected to produce prolonged heat with little to no rain in the forecast.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for the B.C. Interior that begins Friday and runs through Tuesday.

The agency says daytime highs will rise into the low to mid-30s over the central and southern Interior, while northern regions will hit the mid to high 20s — 10 C to 15 C above what is seasonable.

Overnight lows are expected to be in the mid-teens — also 10 C to 15 C above what is seasonable.

However, the agency notes the conditions are not comparable to the heat dome recorded in June 2021, which resulted in stagnant air being trapped near the earth's surface, preventing overnight cooling from taking place.

3 homes destroyed by Boundary Lake wildfire in northeast B.C.

The forecasted heat wave comes as crews continue to battle significant wildfires near Fort St. John and along the B.C.-Alberta border, which have forced more than 100 people from their homes.

On Tuesday, the Peace River Regional District said three homes near Fort St. John suffered "significant damage" due to the Boundary Lake wildfire.

The district said it has been in touch with homeowners to offer them support. One of the homes may have been uninhabited, the district says.

There are more than 40 active wildfires burning across the province, primarily in the Prince George Fire Centre, which covers the northeast quarter of the province, and it's likely that number will grow over the weekend, forecasters say.

A hazy sunrise.

In a series of statements posted online, the B.C. Wildfire Centre warned of the unseasonably strong ridge of high pressure expected to build over B.C. this weekend.

"This will mean summer-like conditions with temperatures forecast to be several degrees above seasonal normals, likely breaking temperature records for mid-May," the service said.

The statement says that compared to the 20-year average, the number of wildfires experienced this spring is normal, but the number of hectares burned for this time of year is four times higher than usual.

Eighty-five per cent of the area burned is the result of three "wildfires of note" burning in northeastern B.C.

Innes says B.C.'s snowpack typically melts fairly slowly, particularly in forested areas, which helps keep moisture in the ground until later in the summer.

But if the snow melts quickly, as it has done so far this spring, he says the meltwater will run off, raising the risk of flooding and, subsequently, wildfires.

Watch <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCWildfire?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BCWildfire</a> Service Superintendent of Predictive Services, Neal McLoughlin provide an update on what this weather will mean for wildfire conditions across the province, including areas of particular concern in the northeast: <a href="https://t.co/Qd1XKwcDfy">https://t.co/Qd1XKwcDfy</a>


Oil and gas operations shut down: regulator

The British Columbia Energy Regulator says the wildfires burning in the province's northeast have affected some oil and gas operations.

The regulator said no oil and gas infrastructure has been directly affected by fires in the region, but some operations have been shut down "either due to evacuation order or as a proactive measure, to reduce risk to workers, the public and the environment."

It did not provide exact numbers or the names of any affected operations.

An online map created by the energy regulator shows oil and gas operators in the province that are within a specified distance from a fire point, perimeter or user-specified location.

Oil and gas operations have also been halted, and workers relocated in the west and northwest of Alberta, where more than 100 active fires are burning, and a provincial state of emergency is in place.

Work on the Site C hydroelectric dam project, located about 14 kilometres southwest of Fort St. John, continues despite the presence of wildfire smoke, according to a spokesperson, who said employees have been reminded to minimize their exposure where possible.

Trans Mountain says it is monitoring the wildfire situation in B.C. and Alberta, adding "there is no impact" on operations or its pipeline expansion project.

The 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline carries 300,000 barrels of oil per day and is Canada's only pipeline system transporting oil from Alberta to the West Coast. Its expansion, for which construction is currently underway, will essentially twin the existing pipeline.

Fire bans in place

Effective Thursday at noon, Category 2 open burning — including the use of fireworks, sky lanterns and burn barrels — is banned in the Cariboo Fire Centre.

A Category 2 and Category 3 ban — which include open fires that burn material in one or more piles not exceeding two metres in height and three metres in width, as well as burning stubble or grass — will go into effect in the Northwest Fire Centre on Saturday. It will also go into effect Thursday in the Prince George Fire Centre, where all of B.C.'s fires of note are burning.

A ban is already in place in the Peace Forest District, the Fort Nelson Forest District and the Robson Valley Fire Zone.

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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