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The Okanagan Mountain Park forest fire seen from Peachland, B.C., lights up the night sky Thursday, Aug. 21, 2003. More than 2,400 wildfires ravaged B.C. in the summer of 2003. (RICHARD LAM/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Okanagan Mountain Park forest fire seen from Peachland, B.C., lights up the night sky Thursday, Aug. 21, 2003. More than 2,400 wildfires ravaged B.C. in the summer of 2003. (RICHARD LAM/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. campers warned of increased risk of forest fires Add to ...

Anyone heading into the woods for the long B.C. weekend is being implored to take special care to prevent forest fires because officials expect to have their hands full with the blazes Mother Nature starts.

Fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek says an unstable weather pattern will bring lightning during the weekend and while that may come with some rain, he says it will probably be little more than a spritzing.

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“Some people get the assumption that it’s removed the danger. Not at all,” Mr. Skrepnek said in an interview.

“It takes a pretty sustained period of cooler weather and precipitation to lower the fire danger rating, especially given the amount of days we’ve seen in a pretty hot and dry situation. And of course, with that rain came lighting, which has now created a whole raft of new fires that we need to be responding to.”

The fire danger remains at high to extreme in some parts of B.C.

Mr. Skrepnek said there were more than 100 new fires started Thursday, but the vast majority were small and were contained.

While even a little bit of rain is welcome, Mr. Skrepnek said it can also bring about complacency among those that use the back country.

That means people may not be looking out for fires or feeling the same need to report them, he said.

As well, “hold-over” fires can flare up as long as two weeks after a lightning strike.

“A phenomenon we see quite often is a lightning system will move through and there will be lightning strikes. It doesn’t necessarily cause a fire right off the bat, but it might be simmering in the ground and after a week or two weeks, it can still be lurking in there,” Mr. Skrepnek said.

“Once the wind conditions pick up, that can then turn into a fire at that point. We refer to those as hold-over fires. So even though we’re responding to already 100 new fires today, we could be seeing more down the road that are a result of this lightning system that haven’t actually appeared yet.”

Heavy equipment and helicopters are being used to fight some of the new fires, but Mr. Skrepnek said others are being monitored to ensure they don’t blaze out of control.

He noted forest fires are a healthy part of the life cycle for many tree species and fires also help clean out the forest floor.

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