Campfire ban, heat wave warning issued for southwest B.C.

Wildfire risk high, with an expanding pocket of extreme near Harrison Lake

The rising threat of wildfires has led to a campfire ban across much of southwestern B.C.

The ban declared by the Coastal Fire Centre takes effect noon Saturday and covers the entire Lower Mainland except where fires are allowed by local municipalities, and all but the northernmost part of Vancouver Island.

The fire danger rating is high across the Lower Mainland and there’s a pocket of extreme fire risk region on the east side of Harrison Lake, said fire information officer Donna MacPherson.

She said the extreme risk area is expected to expand because there’s no significant precipitation in the forecast, while a heat wave this weekend is expected to bring temperatures of up to 29 near the water and the low 30s inland, further drying the fuels in the forest.

“We’re a little concerned that people don’t understand how dry it is,” MacPherson said. “We’re seeing dryness that normally occurs in late July or August, instead of at this time of the year. June is typically our wet month.”

Long grasses that are tinder dry can easily be sparked by thrown cigarette or an ATV that drives through, she said.

There’s potential for thunderstorms with lightning on Monday, but the storms aren’t expected to bring enough broad-based rain to reduce the fire risk.

The main fire still burning in the area is the 568-hectare Elaho Valley fire west of Pemberton. It’s 40 per cent contained.

A small 0.5 hectare fire broke out near Harrison Lake Wednesday night but was quickly knocked down, thanks in part to the close proximity of the new Fire Boss water-scooping amphibious planes that are based in Abbotsford.

There are no major sources of wildfire smoke blowing into southwest B.C. right now, but residents can check the forecast for smoke at www.bcairquality.ca./bluesky.

More than 530 fires have already been ignited across B.C. this year, and more than 63,000 hectares has burned.

Area covered by Coastal Fire Centre campfire ban.

Heat wave warning issued

Environment Canada is warning southern B.C. is in for a “major heat wave” this weekend.

The special weather alert says the high temperatures will increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.

“An exceptionally strong ridge of high pressure will build over Western Canada this Friday and Saturday allowing hot air to invade Southern B.C.,” it says.

“Temperatures are expected to approach 40 degrees over the Southern Interior and the low thirties along the South Coast.

“The highest temperatures are expected Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. Several daily temperature records are likely to fall with the possibility of monthly records falling come the end of June.”

A weak weather disturbance moving onshore Sunday evening will bring the chance of thunderstorms over the South Coast. High cloud ahead of the system may decrease the temperatures slightly Sunday afternoon.

A slight cooling trend will begin Monday however the unseasonably hot weather will persist through Canada Day.

More than 100 firefighters are working the Elaho Valley fire west of Pemberton.

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