Storm system provides little relief, brings lightning to parched BC back country

By James Peters
July 21, 2017 - 1:00pm

KAMLOOPS — While a storm system that moved through the BC Interior starting Wednesday evening provided some rain, there is no time for provincial firefighters to let down their guards.

Provincial Fire Information Officer Navi Saini says rainfall amounts were quite varied.

"Recent showers in southern sections of the province have helped the fire situation, however not all fires of concern received rain," said Saini. "We had a few millimetres to no rain on some of our larger fires, whereas other fires did receive some downpours."

Those downpours were certainly welcome where they came, but Saini says that's a drop in the bucket compared to what the largest wildfires need.

"Many of the large interface fires in the Cariboo and Kamloops regions are considerable in size, and they will require a sustained period of heavy rain over the course of several days."

"It's this prolonged rain that makes a big difference, and gets deep enough into the forest fuels to make a significant impact on the danger rating, as well as helping with firefighting suppression efforts."

The flip side of the coin for this storm system was lightning, much of it striking in the Kamloops Fire Centre.

Fire Information Officer Max Birkner says several hundred strikes were recorded in this region.

"We did receive 871 lightning strikes in the last 24 hours, which is quite significant, and eight of those lightning strikes did start some spot fires throughout the area," said Birkner.

One of those fires, in the North Shuswap, has already spread beyond spot size.

"The largest one that we have right now is a fire that is burning on the north shore of Shuswap Lake. It's two hectares in size right now, but we do have a heli-tanker on the way and they are assessing that area. The other fires are quite remote, and they are spot-sized."

Birkner says with any lightning event, there is the risk that holdover strikes might pop up days later.

"We really do appreciate people reporting these types of fires that start up. We did have the eight fires that did start, but we can have a lot of holdover fires during events like these. So please continue looking out there for smoke in the hills."

The most significant fire in the Kamloops Fire Centre remains the Elephant Hill fire north of Cache Creek.

While the danger has eased in the Cache Creek area, Birkner says the fire is still burning aggressively enough to leave devastation in its wake.

"There has been some aggressive fire activity. The north flank in the Loon Lake and Hihium Lake area is experiencing some high intensity right now and some significant growth, so crews and heavy equipment are continuing to work toward containment."

"Today, they are anticipating that we may get a bit of a repeat of yesterday's weather, including some lightning, but with less precipitation. We are expecting some southerly winds at 15 kilometres an hour, with gusts up to 25."

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