WILDFIRE WATCH: 282,000 hectares now burned is four times 10-year average

Fire updates from around B.C., with photos, interactive charts and updates from Twitter and Facebook

Aerial view of Wood Lake wildfire north of Harrison Hot Springs

Latest updates below of current wildfire news from Black Press news staff across B.C.

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Update from Jeff Nagel, Aug. 5 at 1:35 p.m.

Lightning sparked dozens of new fires across B.C. overnight and officials say an expected weather shift back toward sunny, dry conditions by the weekend could worsen the risk.

“We do not want people getting complacent,” B.C. chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said Wednesday.

There are currently 147 active fires – more than 100 of them lightning caused – and 10 major “fires of note.”

More than 130 firefighters continue to battle the newest major wildfire at Wood Lake north of Harrison Hot Springs. That aggressive fire has grown from just a few hectares to more than 650 hectares in just four days.

So far this year, B.C. has had 1,418 wildfires, an estimated 282,000 hectares has burned and firefighting costs are currently pegged at $180 million.

The area burned is already more than four times worse than the average of 63,000 hectares over the past 10 years.

And 2015 appears certain to go down as one of the worst wildfire years in B.C. of all time. (See interactive charts below.)

Approximately 30 per cent of fires so far have been caused by people – due to everything from thrown cigarettes and improperly extinguished campfires to industrial activities and vehicles igniting vegetation.

JUMP TO:Charts of fires and costsInteractive map of fire locations and detailsLatest updates

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Update from Tom Fletcher, Aug. 4

As firefighters from Ontario and Australia prepare to go home, a group of 25 firefighters from South Africa are heading for B.C. to assist and train with crews still busy with 140 fires.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson said Tuesday the South Africans will be paired with B.C. firefighters to continue training to internationals standards, as they were doing in Alberta. About 150 other visiting firefighters, mostly from Ontario and Australia, are expected to have headed home by Aug. 11.

Thomson said there were 31 new fire starts over the B.C. Day long weekend, 13 of them human caused. That includes the Wood Lake fire near Harrison Lake.

A high pressure ridge is to rebuild by Thursday, bringing more temperatures in the upper 20s by Friday.

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Harrison Lake

Update from the Chilliwack Progress, August 4 at 8:44 a.m.

A fire north of Harrison Hot Springs continues to burn uncontained Tuesday morning and grew dramatically overnight.

Strong winds on Monday and overnight have greatly increased the size of the wildfire, burning in a popular recreation area near Wood Lake.

The B.C. Wildfire Service now estimates the fire at 600 hectares and moving northward away from Harrison.

“This fire is suspected to be human caused, and preventable,” according to the service. “The area has an extreme fire danger rating.”

Nine helicopters, 135 fire fighters and two pieces of heavy equipment are battling the fire, assisted at times over the long weekend by air tankers.

Update from the Agassiz Harrison Observer, August 3 at 9:00 a.m.

According to the BC Wildfire Service as of Sunday evening, a forest fire west of Harrison Lake has grown to 45 hectares in size. Wind has helped spread the “aggressively burning ground fire,” according to the provincial authority.

Agassiz Fire

Photo: The blaze as viewed from Harrison Lake’s shoreline. (Image Credit: Pauline Bechtel)

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Update from the BC Wildfire Service, July 31 at 1:00 p.m.

A few new fires on Thursday brought B.C.’s total number of wildfire to 1,360 fires in 2015, burning an estimated 276,000 hectares for a total cost over $167 million.

That’s up from last year, when there were 799 wildfires from April 1 to July 31, 2015, which burned 186,000 hectares.

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Hot, dry weather on weekend, winds could whip up fires

Much of B.C. is heading back into parched, dry conditions that threaten to spark a surge in forest fire activity.

An animated map (see below) of the fire danger maps posted since July 1 graphically shows how the risk of fires has declined since record hot temperatures in early July, but is on the increase again.

Hot, dry conditions are returning after sporadic rain last weekend, and that could be worsened by strong winds expected in some areas over the B.C. Day long weekend, B.C. fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said Thursday.

“That could cause some pretty rapid fire growth if we see fires starting,” he said. “We have to anticipate fire activity is going to ramp up across the province.”

Skrepnek urged the public to be extremely cautious.

“When it’s this dry the heat coming off an exhaust pipe can potentially start a fire if you’re idling near tall grass,” he said.

August is historically the driest month with the most wildfire activity.

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Kelowna

Update from the Vernon Morning Star, July 29 at 8:00 a.m.

People living in Shelter Cove and surrounding areas may notice increased smoke at the Westside Road wildfire starting today (Wednesday) as a result of proactive burning operations.

These burning operations will take place in a controlled environment within the fire’s perimeter to remove unburned fuels from the area and decrease the chance of the fire breaching containment lines.

“Due to the hard work of crews and recent precipitation, this wildfire is now 85 per cent contained,” said Jordan Turner, an information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service.

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Lake Cowichan Fire ServiceLake Cowichan

Update from the Cowichan Valley Citizen, July 29 at 9:00 a.m.

Firefighters from the BC Wildfire Service worked through the night to combat a blaze near the Lake Cowichan Highway at Skutz Falls turnoff.

The sky was still yellow and hazy when the sun rose Wednesday morning.

“It is still burning,” Coastal Fire Centre Fire Information Officer Marg Drysdale said of the fire believed to be at least 10 hectares (25 acres) in size.

“It will continue to burn for a while,” she said.

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Vernon

Update from the Vernon Morning Star, July 27 at 10:00 a.m.

An ‘evacuation alert’ for Bolean Lake and Chase-Falkland Road has been rescinded:

Residents in an area near Falkland are being told that the risk from a wildfire is over…

“The B.C. Wildfire Service reports that favourable weather conditions have led to a significant decrease in fire behaviour at the Bolean Lake wildfire,” said Cliff Doherty, with the Shusap Emergency Program.

“This cooling trend, along with increasing containment levels, has considerably lowered the risk to nearby structures.”

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Nelson

Update from the Nelson Star, July 27 at 9:00 a.m.

The 770-hectare Sitkum/Duhamel wildfire is on its last legs.

“Many areas of the fire are fully contained, mopped up, and are now in patrol stage,” said an update on bcwildfire.ca. “Some areas at the north end of the fire are inaccessible to crews.”

The fire received up to 10 mm of rain in certain areas Sunday which helped extinguish hot spots. It is now considered 90 per cent contained.

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Kelowna

Update from the Kelowna Capital News, July 27 at 9:00 a.m.

An ‘evacuation alert’ for Shelter Cove/Westside Road has been rescinded:

Forest firefighters are continuing to monitor the fire while working to fully contain the blaze, which had peaked at more than 500 hectares in size since it began more than a week ago…

The public is asked to obey all warning and hazards signs and watch for any firefighters and fire suppression vehicles that are still working in this area.

West Kelowna evacuation alert

The Shelter Cove/Westside Road wildfire evacuation alert has been rescinded. (Image Credit: BC Wildlife/Contributor)

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured the area with B.C. Premier Christy Clark – whose riding is Westside-Kelowna – and thanked firefighters and first responders for their efforts.

“We know these are tough and they’re sometimes dangerous jobs and these efforts really are appreciated by everybody,” Harper said.

Click here for earlier coverage.

Wildfire stats 2015 | Create infographics

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