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995 lightning flashes in 12 hour period in B.C. spark concerns about forest fires

·2 min read
Lightning strikes Okanagan Lake as seen from West Kelowna, B.C., in 2019. (Submitted by Alex Tilley - image credit)
Lightning strikes Okanagan Lake as seen from West Kelowna, B.C., in 2019. (Submitted by Alex Tilley - image credit)

As an upper cold front sweeps across much of British Columbia, Environment Canada has issued a weather alert warning of lightning strikes in parts of the province.

By 5:00 p.m PT, 995 lightning flashes had hit the central eastern region of B.C. over a 12 hour period according to Environment Canada.

There were also isolated sparks over the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Valley.

"We definitely expect to see continued lightning activity in the south Omineca area from Prince George and further into the Cariboo and into the Columbia Mountains," said meteorologist Armel Castellan.

The storms, which are also bringing hail and winds of up to 60 km/h have sparked concerns about wildfire activity as the season moves into its early stages.

The B.C. Wildfire Service map of current fire risks in the province shows pockets of high to extreme danger in south central and eastern B.C., while approximately one quarter of the province has a moderate fire risk.

Pockets of high to extreme fire danger can be seen in the B.C. Wildfire Service daily rating of danger zones in the province which was released at 12:00 p.m. PT.
Pockets of high to extreme fire danger can be seen in the B.C. Wildfire Service daily rating of danger zones in the province which was released at 12:00 p.m. PT.(Government of B.C.)

Farther south, steep slopes and trees have made it challenging for crews to gain control of a 13 hectare fire burning 5 kilometres north of Harrison Mills, according to B.C. Wildfire Service.

The fire, which is now under control, started Saturday on Chehalis Forest Service Road and was human caused, according to the service. It is now under investigation.

Thick smoke in the Lake Koocanusa area in the southeast fire district prompted a high volume of calls Monday. But B.C. Wildfire Service says the smoke is due to some prescribed burning in northern Montana and is not from any wildfires burning in the province.

Another front will move through later in the week bringing cool, wet weather at first, but temperatures will rise above normal into the long weekend — creating dry conditions and adding to the concern for forest fires.

"The chance of something smouldering is not impossible because we are going to set up for a ridge in the second half of this week," said Castellan.

As of May 16, the B.C. Wildfire Service has recorded 182 fires this year, burning a total of 2,057 hectares. The majority of these were in the Kamloops area.

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