Open this photo in gallery:

Wildfire crews across British Columbia are keeping a close eye on the backcountry after recent lightning storms have raised the potential for smouldering fires to erupt as the next hot spell arrives this weekend. A firefighter directs water on a grass fire in Kamloops, B.C., on June 5.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Much of British Columbia will experience hotter than usual temperatures next week that could exacerbate already precarious drought and wildfire conditions.

At a news conference on Thursday, government officials were quick to emphasize that the coming heat wave won’t come close to the deadly weather event of June-July, 2021, but still has the potential to trigger related illnesses.

Beginning Sunday, temperatures are expected to be in the high 20s and low 30s in coastal areas, low 30s to mid 30s inland, and mid 30s to high 30s in the Southwest Interior.

“The days are shorter and the nights are longer in August than they are in June, which will allow for extended nighttime cooling temperatures. Nevertheless, it is critical that people understand the risks,” said Bowinn Ma, Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, at the conference.

Ms. Ma cautioned people to familiarize themselves with the signs of heat-related illness – such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, nausea or vomiting – to identify places in and outside of the home where they can stay cool and to take the appropriate steps to stay safe.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry said that temperatures aren’t expected to reach such a level that requires extreme heat responses. However, she added, hotter temperatures persisting for most of the week can lead to an accumulation of heat stress.

The heat event may worsen B.C.’s continuing drought, which has already triggered water restrictions and impacted farming and ranching. More than 80 per cent of the province’s water basins are at either Drought Level 4 or 5, meaning adverse effects to ecosystems are either likely or almost certain to occur.

“This level of extreme drought has never been seen in this province before,” Ms. Ma said. “This time last year, we only had a handful of water basins at Level 2 drought and, in 2021, which was largely considered a historic year for droughts, it wasn’t until the end of September that we saw one water basin go to Level 5.”

The minister said it’s possible that communities fall into such a dire situation that the province is required to help transport potable water from healthier reservoirs – a scenario for which the province is preparing.

As of Thursday, there were 399 active wildfires in B.C. Of those, 11 were considered fires of note, meaning they were either highly visible or had the potential to impact people, communities or critical infrastructure. As of Wednesday afternoon, 660 properties were on evacuation order and close to 4,000 under evacuation alert.

There are roughly 4,000 personnel battling B.C.’s wildfires, including contractors from the U.S., Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica and Ontario, on top of thousands of BC Wildfire Service personnel.

“As our forests dry out, the fire danger will increase,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “It is vital that we take the necessary steps to remain prepared for wildfire and we continue to do our part to prevent human-caused wildfires.”

Also on Thursday, the province announced that it is partnering with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation to proactively establish wildfire evacuee accommodations for up to 300 people in Kamloops. Located in the Rayleigh neighbourhood, the temporary accommodations are expected to be operational by Aug. 16, with the First Nation providing cultural and traditional supports.

Source link