Recent rain not enough to make significant dent in Island wildfire situation

Recent rain not enough to make significant dent in Island wildfire situation
BC Wildfire Service
On Aug. 18, the BC Wildfire Service said a large amount of smoke was visible from five lightning-caused wildfires in Strathcona Park.

Vancouver Island recently received some rain, but the Coastal Fire Centre says it wasn’t enough to make a significant dent in the current wildfire situation.

Sam Bellion, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre, says the rain was not enough to penetrate into the soil.

“It’s really important to remember that we started into the summer already experiencing those very extreme drought conditions,” Bellion said.

“So those fine fuels on the surface of the forest floor might have gotten a good sprinkling, but there’s those deeper depth layers that are still quite dry and when we get rain after a really long and dry period in our forest, it doesn’t typically penetrate very well.”

Bellion says the soil in the forests may have become hydrophobic, meaning the water isn’t penetrating into the deeper levels of the earth and just running off into streams.

“We’re still waiting for what we call those ‘season ending rains’ where we get sustained and consistent rain over a longer period of time that will penetrate into the forest,” Bellion said.

READ PREVIOUS: Lightning sparks numerous wildfires on Vancouver Island

During Tuesday’s lightning storm, Bellion says the Coastal Fire Centre received 508 lightning strikes, which started at least 57 wildfires. Since the weather has since been warm and dry, she says there may be additional holdover fires, which are fires that remain dormant in the periods following lightning strikes.

In the 2023 wildfire season, Vancouver Island has had 149 wildfires, up from 67 to the same date in 2022.

Heading into the last long weekend of the summer, Bellion urges people to be cautious and avoid sparking new wildfires.

“We’re still seeing just unprecedented levels of fire activity across Canada right now and it’s very important that we don’t divert resources away towards unnecessary human caused wildfires,” Bellion said.

The campfire ban is still in effect for all of Coastal Fire Centre except for the Haida Gwaii forest district. Anyone who sees smoke or a fire is asked to report it by calling the hotline at 1-800-663-5555 or dial star 5555 from a mobile phone.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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