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Forecast winds could threaten wildfire guards this weekend

To date, 1,472 fires have burned 656,000 hectares of the province.
Photo taken Aug. 6. This is an aerial shot of a planned ignition on the Flat Lake wildfire.

While fire crews have been making decent progress building guards around fires burning in B.C.'s Interior, hot temperatures over the next couple of days and shifting winds Sunday are expected to cause more problems.

On the White Rock Lake fire in particular, 164 firefighters have been working on building fire guards on the east, west and northwest flanks of the large fire, but changing winds on Sunday could threaten those guards.

“The strategy in the past couple of days has been to shore up as many of the flanks of this fire with guards as possible, anticipating a change in wind event,” says Rick Manwaring, deputy minister with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

“When the weather changes, and we're anticipating that for Sunday, wind direction will change... so the efforts at that point will be to protect the guards. It is possible, to be honest, that the fire will jump the guards in some places depending on which way the direction goes, but that's what the team is planning for right now.”

Manwaring says it's still unclear how many homes were destroyed in the Monte Lake area last week, but BC Wildfire Service crews are currently in the Paxton Valley area working to build guards. Meanwhile, crews continue to make progress on the Westside Road area as well.

He notes that larger fires like the White Rock Lake fire will likely be burning for several months.

“Some of these larger fires burning in the central Interior, we're going to be fighting these right up until the snow falls,” Manwaring says.

“Even though it will get cooler, because it is so dry and things continue to be challenging in these conditions, with no precipitation, we're in for at least three weeks to a month, probably right up until late fall.”

One issue with fighting these large fires this summer is the consistent warm temperatures through the evening.

“At this time of the year, we usually start to look toward what we call recovery, so as the sun goes down in the evening and nighttime comes, the relative humidity beings to climb on the land base and wildfire activity drops,” Manwaring says.

“We are not seeing the recovery of the humidity at night. We are seeing continued fire behaviour overnight and it really limits our ability to make progress in the evening periods.”

To date, 1,472 fires have burned 656,000 hectares of the province, and 264 active wildfires continue to burn. There are 3,725 firefighters and other personnel fighting the fires across B.C.

There are currently 55 evacuation orders in place, impacting 4,592 properties.