Heat records tumble in B.C. as forecast brings new wildfire concerns

Heat records tumble in B.C. as forecast brings new wildfire concerns
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It was so hot on Sunday in Cache Creek, B.C., that only a “big, cold shower” could bring relief, Chandrika Dasi said.

She works at the Historic Hat Creek Ranch and lives on site in a cabin, but said she had to abandon her home for the shower and then head to the ranch restaurant for some air-conditioned relief.

Dasi said the ranch is doing its best to cope with the heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring in British Columbia and beyond.

“We have many people who are employed here at the ranch, and we provide them with water and drinks all day,” she said.

“They have access to our restaurant where there’s air conditioning and we have air conditioning in some of our attractions.”

Cache Creek was a hot spot on Sunday, with a daily high of 40.3 C, breaking the record of 36.9 set in 2015.

It was one of almost two dozen records reset for July 7 in the province, and the hot spell continued with 46 heat alerts issued across B.C. by noon on Monday. The hot weather has extended into the Prairies, while a separate heat wave is hitting Atlantic Canada.

RELATED: High temperatures continue with heat warnings issued for most of Vancouver Island, B.C.

Metro Vancouver meanwhile issued an air quality advisory Monday due to ground-level smog it says in a statement will remain in place “until further notice” and is expected to last for a few days. The advisory covers northeast and southeast Metro Vancouver and the central and eastern Fraser Valley.

The heat has also raised concerns about wildfire risks and the forecast calls for dry lightning in the southern Interior on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Watch the full report below

Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said they’re working with the BC Wildfire Service on the locations where they have the most concern for wildfires.

“So, lightning associated to an upper feature where there’s just not enough moisture yet, and yet the ground is, of course, curing at very high and dry temperatures and humidity.”

The BC Wildfire Service said Monday the hot, dry conditions increase the potential for wildfire and the new weather pattern expected mid-week will bring high winds and thunderstorms, with dry lightning strikes.

There are 99 active wildfires burning in the province, most of them in the northeast section of B.C. where drought has been a persistent problem.

Jennifer Smith, a national warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, told a briefing on Monday about the hot weather across Western Canada that they watch for four things that lead to wildfires — hot and dry conditions, wind and lightning without rain.

“So, this is not a favourable setup for forest fires, not favourable in terms of it being good for forest fires. All the ingredients are there for forest fires, unfortunately.”

B.C. had a record wildfire season last year when more than 28,400 square kilometres of forest and land was burned, while thousands of people were forced to leave their homes.

A summary from Environment Canada shows 22 daily high temperature records fell across the province on Sunday, with the temperature of 38.3 C in Kamloops breaking a mark that was set in 1906.

Carmen Akerley owns the Sugar Shak ice cream shop at Harbour Quay in Port Alberni, B.C., where temperatures hit 35.3 C on Sunday and were forecast to hit 36 C on Monday.

A lifelong resident of the town, she said she was “pretty accustomed to (it) being about 10 degrees higher than anywhere else on Vancouver Island.”

Unfortunately, it’s been “a little too hot,” even for ice cream fans, and business was slow Monday afternoon.

“People tend to come down just after 6 p.m., because we do get windy at that time and everybody comes to cool down,” Akerley said, adding that black cherry is a popular flavour this summer.

In downtown Vancouver, they’re lining up for ice cream at Le Parfait.

Gerard Daccache owns the Lebanese-style ice-cream store and said he “adores the heat.”

“We like the heat because this is where the business would grow.”

Daccache said the most popular item on the menu is ashta, a Middle-Eastern ice-cream recipe with orange blossom, which is then dipped in chopped pistachios.

Outside of Daccache’s store, Elisa Caretta who is visiting from Italy said it’s “shocking” for her to experience the heat in Canada, a place she always associates with cold and snow.

“I ordered juice with pineapple and orange because I was dying of thirst. I finished my water. So, I was like, ‘Please, can we go to a bar? Because I’m thirsty, I need something to drink,’” said Caretta.

Caretta said she even brought a raincoat for her trip, but it hasn’t been useful.

Lianna Marie from Calgary said it was the third day of a visit to Vancouver and she spent Sunday walking around the city’s downtown.

“It was tough, but I tried really hard to stay hydrated and just, like, walk on the shady side of the street,” said Marie, who was under the shade of a tree reading a book

Environment Canada says the heat wave brought in by a ridge of high pressure is expected to persist until about mid-week.

It says the high temperatures pose a “moderate risk” to public health, and the risks are greater for seniors, people who live alone and those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, respiratory illness or mental-health challenges.

Heat alerts cover much of the lower third of B.C., as well as parts of the northeast, inland sections of the central and north coasts, the Sunshine Coast, Whistler, Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and parts of Vancouver Island.

While the heat is expected to break Tuesday along the coast and on Vancouver Island, temperatures in the Interior are predicted to reach into the low 40s, before moderating Thursday.

The relief came early for Dasi in Cache Creek when a co-worker gave her an air-conditioning unit, which she said she planned to set up on Monday.

— With files from Dirk Meissner in Victoria

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2024.

Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian PressBrieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press
Nono Shen, The Canadian PressNono Shen, The Canadian Press

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