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Lightning, heat wave ignite 34 wildfires in northwest B.C. in 24 hours

BC Wildfire Service is responding to three wildfires of concern, as 47 fires in total burn in region
BC Wildfire Service crews combat the Tintagel and Sheraton Lake wildfires near Burns Lake on July 8. A visible smoke plume from Highway 16 marks the scene of the fires and has triggered an evacuation alert for nearby properties. (BC Wildfire Service/Facebook)

BC Wildfire Service is responding to 34 new wildfires across northwest B.C., as a record-breaking heat wave and lighting strikes due to thunderstorms continue to cause havoc across the region. The total number of new fires in the area over the last week has risen to 47, according to BC Wildfire Service’s Northwest Fire Centre Information Officer Casda Thomas.

Thomas revealed that there are currently three wildfires of note within the Northwest Fire Centre, which extends from Endako in the south up to the B.C.-Yukon border in the north. The existing hot, dry conditions, coupled with recent lightning strikes, have sparked multiple new fires, eight of which are within the Skeena Fire Zone, which includes Terrace and Kitimat.

“Despite their lower fire behaviour compared to the rest of the Northwest Fire Centre, many of the fires in the Skeena Fire Zone are smouldering in high-elevation terrain,” said Thomas. Though they pose no immediate threat to structures or infrastructure, the current weather forecast’s potential for thunderstorms and lightning could lead to more wildfires, a concern Thomas confirmed they are monitoring closely.

“Continued hot and dry conditions are expected, with the potential for thunderstorms, hopefully bringing some rain,” Thomas said. “We’re also expecting lightning, particularly across the southern part of the Northwest Fire Centre, including the Skeena, Bulkley and Nadina fire zones.”

Thomas assured residents that they have an initial attack crew on standby with a helicopter ready to respond to any wildfire near communities or infrastructure in the Skeena Fire Zone.

READ MORE: Drought, forecasted hot temperatures to raise wildfire risks in Terrace this summer

Meanwhile, the Powers Creek wildfire near Smithers, classified as a wildfire of note due to the risk it poses to humans and infrastructure, is being tackled by multiple resources. “We have a skimmer group operating from Tyhee Lake, working to keep the fire behaviour low so crews and equipment can put in the control lines,” Thomas said, also citing two helicopters, a unit crew, an initial attack crew and 10 pieces of heavy equipment on the scene.

An evacuation order has been issued by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako for all dwellings and lands west of the Telkwa River in the Powers Creek area, including Tatlow Road and local roads. An evacuation alert is also in place for all dwellings and lands south of Seymour Lake.

The two wildfires of note near Burns Lake are being combatted by an air tanker group, an initial attack crew, a contract crew and five pieces of heavy equipment, Thomas said. They have been using retardant to guide the fire away from structures or infrastructure as they work to establish control lines.

For those wondering what they can do ahead of the thunderstorms and lightening strikes today and possibly tomorrow, Thomas urged residents to stay updated by visiting the BC Wildfire Service website or downloading their mobile app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. “In the event of a fire necessitating an evacuation alert or order, that would be issued through the City of Terrace and Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, the specific municipality, or the First Nations government, at least in the Skeena Fire Zone,” Thomas said.

Campfire bans continue to hold in much of the Northwest Fire Zone, including the Nadina, Bulkley, and Cassier fire zones. While such a ban is not yet in place for the Skeena Fire Zone, which includes Terrace and Kitimat, Thomas warned that it might be instituted if the hot, dry weather persists. Currently, Terrace and Kitimat are under a high fire danger rating.

With files from Marisca Bakker

Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.

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