Fire and flood: BC bracing for bad weekend as temperatures mount

May 8 2023, 11:40 pm

This upcoming week is expected to really heat up, but the news is not all bikinis and sunshine. 

Weather experts and the province are warning that the warmer weather could increase flood risk for the southern Interior. Meanwhile, the return to above-seasonal temperatures is a threat to new wildfires igniting in the province. 

Flooding threat

Last week, the Cache Creek, Okanagan Indian Band and Grand Forks were challenged with flooding and mudslides, and the government warned conditions would worsen over the weekend. 

The minister of emergency management and climate readiness, Bowinn Ma, said, “Fortunately, over the weekend, the rainfall was less severe than forecasted.”

While these communities can expect a period of stabilization this week, “this does not mean that conditions have resolved entirely,” she said. 

Dave Campbell, head of the River Forecast Center, added the province has experienced a snow melt that is two or three times faster because of the hot weather the region experienced in early May. 

“We could see again another period of elevated flood risk in the province and bringing on potentially new areas that have not experienced flooding so far this year, particularly as we start to melt the higher elevation snow and start to bring in runoff into the larger rivers,” he said. 

As of Monday, about 50 British Columbians remain under an evacuation order, and just over 2,000 others are under an evacuation alert because of flooding. 

Wildfire risks

This weekend, three intrusive broadcast alerts were issued for communities in the Peace River region because of wildfires.

All current wildfires of note are in the Prince George Fire Center: 

  • Terror Creek wildfire, which is just south of the village of McBride
  • Boundary Lake wildfire is located on the BC-Alberta border about 50 kilometres east of Fort St. John
  • And Red Creek wildfire is just north of Charlie Lake

Heading into this weekend, Cliff Chapman, director of Wildfire Operations, suggests there will be a “rebound up back into moderate to high fire hazard” due to the weather. 

“What we’ll see over the course of the next five to seven days is … that hazard really trend throughout the province and the potential for wildfire starts is going to increase … northeast, and it will be widespread across the province,” he said. 

Additionally, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist Armel Castellan said there are “multihazard[s] happening concurrently” because of expected dry lightning in the north and central part of the province. 

Chapman is also taking note of the accelerated start to the fire season Alberta is experiencing, adding fires in this region is an example of how quickly conditions can change.

He said Northeast BC is particularly challenging for fire crews, and when 30- to 50-kilometre winds come through, wildfires grow significantly and, at times, move quickly toward people’s residences. 

Wildfires in Alberta have spanned about 300,000 hectares, while BC fires span about 12,000 hectares.

British Columbians are being encouraged to prepare for floods, wildfires and heat by visiting the provincial site for guides for emergency preparedness

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