Rain fell and temperatures cooled in many parts of British Columbia over the weekend, reducing wildfire risk but not bringing as much relief as needed to crews battling hundreds of blazes in the province.
“It has definitely taken the edge off in some areas,” Kevin Skrepnek, chief fire information officer for the BC Wildfire Service, said Monday. “Having said that, in some areas where we needed this rain the most, unfortunately it just didn’t materialize.”
The regions that didn’t see rain include central B.C., where major wildfires included the 912-square-kilometre Shovel Lake fire, and the northwest, where the 1,180-square-kilometre Alkali Lake blaze has destroyed dozens of structures in Telegraph Creek, Skrepnek said. No significant rain is expected in those areas any time soon, he added.
“Every little bit will help, but there’s nothing on the horizon right now that’s going to be ending the fire season by any stretch,” he said.
The province has, however, turned a corner in terms of temperatures, Skrepnek said, with seasonal and below-seasonal temperatures as well as shorter days, longer nights and more humidity.
The Wildfire Service said in a news release on Monday that rain and cooler temperatures have reduced the risk of wildfires in the province’s northeast and campfires will be allowed in the Fort Nelson and Peace forest districts as of 12 p.m. Tuesday.
The weather is starting to look more favourable for the wildfire risk diminishing, said Armel Castellan, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada. There has been rainfall without lightning and temperatures in the single-digits in some areas, he said.
But he said the rain over the weekend still wasn’t enough.
“Four millimetres in Kelowna is something. It’s not just a drop in the bucket, nor is it going to fill the bucket,” he said.
Rain is in the forecast for the central Interior on Wednesday and Thursday, and for the southern Interior on Friday, though large amounts are not expected with about five to 10 millimetres forecast, he said.
More precipitation could fall in northern B.C. around Dease Lake, not far from where the Alkali Lake fire is burning, Castellan said.
“The end is certainly coming. It’s just that it’s been delayed,” he said, adding that fall weather has arrived earlier in previous years.
“There’s been an extended summer in terms of lack of precipitation.”
Metro Vancouver cancelled an air quality advisory for the entire region and the Fraser Valley on Monday after clean air pushed the wildfire smoke out of the area.
Most of the province remains under a smoky skies bulletin issued by Environment Canada, but air quality has improved to low or moderate risk provincewide.
However, air quality is variable and is expected to fluctuate in some areas until there’s a significant change in the wildfire situation, Castellan said.
“You’re not out of the woods because there’s still tons of smoke and it will come back into those prone locations,” he said.
The Wildfire Service says 2018 has officially become the second-worst wildfire season on record, with 9,450 square kilometres of land burned, behind 2017, when over 12,000 square kilometres were scorched. The third-worst year for wildfires in B.C. was 1958.