Wildfire risk high despite recent rain

Cool and rainy weather last week brought some temporary relief from the dry fire conditions in Summerland and the surrounding area.

Cool and rainy weather last week brought some temporary relief from the dry fire conditions in Summerland and the surrounding area.

The rain on May 4 brought 3.8 millimetres of precipitation to Summerland.

As a result, the fire hazard rating dropped from Tuesday’s reading of four on a scale of five to a rating of three on Thursday.

“We were very happy to see the rain,” said fire chief Glenn Noble. “We were starting to get a little bit concerned.”

The weekend brought hot and dry temperatures, and as a result, the fire hazard had increased once more.

By Monday morning, the fire danger rating in the Okanagan Valley was high. A few patches in the North Okanagan were at an extreme danger rating.

Kelsey Winter, a fire information officer at the Kamloops Fire Centre, said there were four fires reported in the centre’s coverage area on the weekend. The largest of these, near Oyama, was 1.5 hectares in area.

It is believed to have been caused by a lightning strike.

This year, unseasonably warm temperatures in late April resulted in an increased wildfire risk. However, Noble said the risk of a large-scale early wildfire, similar to what occurred in and near Fort McMurray, Alberta, is not likely.

“We had a better snow pack this year,” he said.

Because of the low snow pack in northern Alberta, conditions there were more conducive to fires than here.

While warm temperatures are expected for the weekend, Noble said the high risk of fires is not yet present here.

May and June tend to be rainy months in the region.

In past years, when Summerland and the rest of the South Okanagan have experienced wildfires, the fires have come much later in the season. The 1994 Garnet Fire in Penticton, the 1996 Giant’s Head Mountain fire in Summerland and the 2003 fires near Kelowna all began in the second half of August.

Since April 1, the Kamloops Fire Centre has recorded 34 fires in the region, destroying a total of 170 hectares.