The weather will be heating up over the week as temperatures are expected to reach the mid-30 degrees Celsius which is a factor in pushing the Cranbrook wildfire danger rating to extreme in some parts of the region.
There has been some small-sized wildfire activity recently, notably east of Cranbrook off the St. Mary River, Bull River and up near Canal Flats, according to Fire Information Officer Karlie Shaughnessy.
The largest of those wildfires — reported on a week ago roughly 24 kilometres northwest of Fernie up the Bull River — reached 34 hectares but is now 100 per cent contained. Lightning-caused spot fires also flared up near Perry Creek and St. Mary river over the last few days, burning less than a few hectares and are 100 per cent contained.
To the north of Cranbrook, south Canal Flats, a small spot fire was caused by sparks from a railroad track. Another small lightning-caused fire 15 kilometres east of Fairmont has also been 100 per cent contained.
That’s really about it,” Shaughnessy said. “So since last Tuesday, we saw 17 fires, the majority of those were caused by lightning that went through.”
So far this season, there have been 49 fires reported that have burned a total of 79 hectares. Of those 49 fires, 29 were lightning-caused and the remaining 20 were caused by people, Shaughnessy added.
“We started off with a fairly cool, wet spring and a below-average fire season,” said Shaughnessy. “Now that things have really started heating up the latter half of June, we are experiencing more of an average fire season. So this time last year, we had 44 fires that burned 316 hectares and as of today, we have 49 fires that have burned 79 hectares.
“So we’re really similar to last year, but last year was also a fairly slow season.”
A previously announced ban on Category Two open fires went into effect on Monday, July 3, however, campfires a half-metre wide by a half-metre tall are still allowed.
“So the only thing people are allowed now throughout the whole Southeast Fire Centre is a small campfire,” Shaughnessy said.
Prohibitions under Category Two activities include:
• the burning of any waste, slash or other materials
• stubble or grass fires of any size over any area
• the use of fireworks, sky lanterns and burning barrels
• burning cages or air curtain burners
• binary exploding targets (e.g. for target practice)
The prohibition covers all BC Parks, Crown lands and private lands, but does not apply within the boundaries of a local government that has forest fire prevention bylaws and is serviced by a fire department.
Campfires are currently allowed in the Southeast Fire Centre, but anyone lighting a campfire must maintain a fireguard by removing flammable debris from around the campfire area and must have a hand tool or at least eight litres of water available nearby to properly extinguish the fire.
A campfire should not be lit or kept burning in windy conditions, and it should never be left unattended. Make sure the fire is fully extinguished and the ashes are cold to the touch before leaving the area for any length of time.
The Southeast Fire Centre extends from the U.S. border in the south to Mica Dam in the north and from the Okanagan Highlands and Monashee Mountains in the west to the B.C.-Alberta border in the east. It includes the Selkirk Natural Resource District and the Rocky Mountain Natural Resource District.
To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.