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Lightning sparks new British Columbia fires

Smoke rises from a forest fire in Pelican Lake, B.C. last weekend. Photos courtesy B.C. Forest Service.
Smoke rises from a forest fire in Pelican Lake, B.C. last weekend. Photos courtesy B.C. Forest Service.

Lisa Varano, staff writer

August 20, 2010 — A cold front that brought wind and dry lightning to B.C. has produced more fires.

Fire has charred huge areas of forest.
Fire has charred huge areas of forest.

Hot and dry conditions had been dominating in British Columbia because a strong ridge was in place over the province. But now, that ridge has broken down, and a cold front passed through the area, lowering temperatures.

The Cariboo Fire Centre said the cold front brought strong winds of 70 km/h to the western part of the region. It also had another huge impact, “As the cold front swept through B.C. it created a trigger for thunderstorms, as a result there was lightning, and because the ground was so dry, more fires sparked,” explains The Weather Network's meteorologist Christina Huang.

Hundreds of forest fires in B.C. have been ignited by lightning strikes or accidentally started by people. Scorching heat has created high to extreme fire hazards across most of British Columbia.

Fire officials are worried about what will happen next. “It will probably get worse before it gets better,” says Dave Jackson, a fire information officer from Ontario who is helping out in B.C.

Wildfire personnel from around the country will be joining B.C. forces over the next couple of days to battle flames. The additional group of 330 includes five 20-person sustained action crews from Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. Another 32 wildfire personnel, agency representatives and ten 20-person sustained action crews will be coming in from Ontario. Fire fighters from the province have been helping out their B.C. counterparts since July 29th.

The out-of-province crews will be stationed mainly in the Cariboo and Northwest Fire Centres. However, the placement will also be determined on the basis of need and fire activity. These crews will also ensure the current fire fighters receive time off in keeping with safety regulations.

Heavy smoke hung over Meldrum Creek, B.C., on Saturday.
Heavy smoke hung over Meldrum Creek, B.C., on Saturday.


The exact number of wildfires in B.C. is constantly changing, but it stands at about 275. The Cariboo region in the interior has been hit especially hard, and it is where very large fires are burning. By Wednesday, the Pelican Lake fire covered almost 25,000 hectares, while south of Meldrum Creek, the fire spread over nearly 39,000 hectares.


The smoke from the intense fires in B.C.'s interior has caused poor air quality. Smoke advisories remain in effect in the central interior, including Williams Lake, Quesnel, and Prince George. Ash from the wildfires is falling like snow throughout Williams Lake. And the Environment Ministry says the air quality is the poorest in the province.

There have been reports of people complaining about constant coughing and wheezing due to the hazy air. In Kamloops, stores began closing their doors and residents have been asked to remain inside.

Children and the elderly are being advised to avoid strenuous outdoor activities. The wind has carried the smoke from the wildfires in the interior across large distances, and throughout the to coastal areas of B.C.


Coastal B.C. has been gripped by a heat wave, and daily temperature records continued to fall this week. For Vancouver, the mercury is set to drop to the mid teens come the weekend with a high of 16 in the forecast for Sunday. Rain is also expected to fall all weekend, which will keep temperatures cool.

Check out the current fire risk in your area by heading to the section of our website.

With files from Jill Colton and Beverley Ann D'Cruz

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