Recent lightning storms reason for late-summer surge in fires: BC Wildfire Service

Recent lightning storms reason for late-summer surge in fires: BC Wildfire Service
BC Wildfire Services / Twitter
An aerial view of the Christie Mountain wildfire, which continues to burn south of Penticton

The BC Wildfire Service says of the 540 fires recorded since April in British Columbia, more than one quarter have been sparked in the last week.

The service’s website shows many of the 151 fires that have flared in the last seven days were caused by lightning, and almost three dozen are listed as out of control.

Those include the 14-square kilometre wildfire in the south Okanagan that has already destroyed one home and forced people to leave more than 300 properties south of Penticton.

Cooler temperatures and light winds helped a team of 86 firefighters make what the wildfire service says is “great progress” building a guard on the flank of the fire closest to homes.

After rapidly growing in size earlier this week, the fire on Christie Mountain, south of Penticton, has plateaued at 1400 hectares for the time being.

Evacuation alerts remain posted by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, affecting about 3,700 properties on the east and west sides of the Christie Mountain fire, which is currently the largest in B.C.

A specialized incident management team is being assembled to handle the blaze and the wildfire service says members from across B.C. will begin arriving in Penticton over the next day.

Two other lightning-caused fires continue to create problems.

Ten properties were ordered evacuated Wednesday night in southeastern B.C. as a wildfire near Canal Flats chewed through four square kilometres of bush, and homes remain threatened by a small, but aggressive blaze close to the southern Interior community of Beaverdell.


The service says the fire was caused by lightning with 20 firefighters and a 20-person crew on the ground responding to it, adding that heavy equipment was en route.

The wildfire service says “good progress” was made Wednesday on the flanks of that 18-hectare fire closest to homes and Highway 33.

As for Vancouver Island, after seeing multiple fires spark that earned a classification of ‘out of control’ from the BC Wildfire Services, the majority are now being held or are considered under control.

The only fire on Vancouver Island that is still considered out of control by officials is a 7-hectare blaze located at Meade Creek – just north of Lake Cowichan near Youbou.

An air quality statement warning of smoky skies over the south Okanagan, Boundary and Whistler regions has been issued by Environment Canada.

It advises asthma sufferers or anyone with a chronic condition to stop or reduce activity levels if wildfire smoke makes breathing uncomfortable.

The weather office is calling for a 30 per cent chance of showers in the Penticton region, climbing to 70 per cent over the next 24 hours, which should provide some much-needed help to battle the blaze.

Friday’s forecast, however, also includes the risk of more thunderstorms and temperatures nudging into the low 30s, with an added risk of strong, gusty winds.

With files to Canadian Press.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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