“The table has been set” for another bad wildfire season, says Matt MacDonald, a forecaster with the BC Wildfire Service.
May was warm and dry.
The June forecast has barely a drop of rain and promises unseasonably hot weather across most of the province.
“It’s great for beach time but bad for the forests. It’s making worse the already dry, drought conditions in BC”, says MacDonald.
He estimates it would take 2 to 3 mm of rain daily for 10 to 20 days straight to make a difference.
And that’s unlikely to happen. A strong high-pressure system is keeping moist weather offshore as we head into the hot season.
This perfect storm has been building up over the past 12 months. The winter started dry after a very dry, summer-like fall in 2022. February through April, temps stayed cool. Consistent precipitation allowed the snowpack to grow.
The cool respite was short-lived. Then ”May came in like a lion,” says MacDonald.
Environment Canada says 15 of its BC weather stations recorded their warmest or second warmest May on record.
And it’s only going to get hotter. By mid-week this week, daytime highs will hit 30 C in Campbell River and the Comox Valley.
“We’re going to start to turn the corner, and those deeper, persistent drought conditions are going to begin to rear their ugly faces,” he said.
Forest fire danger ratings are high to extreme all over Vancouver Island.
Eighty-four wildfires are currently burning in BC, including the massive 1700 square km Donnie Creek fire north of Fort St. John that’s out of control.
The Newcastle Creek fire near Sayward is the largest so far this season on the island. Firefighters have contained it at roughly two sq km in size. BC Wildfire Centre dropped the fire’s status from out-of-control to being held.
Two more Vancouver Island fires were reported over the weekend. One at Stocking Creek in the Cowichan Valley was small and quickly controlled. Another one is burning out of control west of Hwy 4 near Cameron Lake.