Heat and wind push up wildfire danger

NANAIMO: Wind and heat set up perfect conditions for the beach and wildfire outbreaks.

Tricia Reynes

Tricia Reynes

Elevated temperatures and stiff breezes won’t spike the records charts, but will increase the danger for wildfire outbreaks.

Temperatures in Nanaimo are predicted to hit highs of 30 C today and Friday (Aug. 16-17), but won’t come close to breaking past records.

Trevor Smith, Environment Canada meteorologist, said the Aug. 15, 2010 record temperature of 33.1 C eclipsed Wednesday’s predicted high of 29 C.

Predicted highs of 30 C for today and Friday also fall far short of the record 34.5 C set for those days in 1977.

“On Vancouver Island you can get pretty big ranges from the water to inland, so Port Alberni’s going to be more like 33, 34,” Smith said.

Outflow winds from the B.C. interior Wednesday and today raised temperatures in the Fraser Valley and some Lower Mainland areas in the mid 30s, but all that hot air will be cooled somewhat by the Strait of Georgia before they hit the Island.

What those winds will do, though, is dry out the landscape, raising wildfire danger ratings for most areas on the south B.C. coast.

“It tends to be hotter weather when we have outflow winds,” said Marg Drysdale, Coastal Fire Centre spokeswoman. “So rapid drying of fine fuels is going to be happening overnight, so it’s going to dry very quickly over the next couple of days.”

The Nanaimo area was still under a “high” fire danger rating as of Wednesday morning.

Temperatures will cool over the weekend when there will be a 30 per cent chance of showers Saturday night through Sunday morning.

Smith said no thundershower activity is officially predicted, but Drysdale is warning of possible lightning storms forming on the south coast that could make their way to the Island on the weekend.

“Saturday to Tuesday we have the potential for some lightning,” Drysdale said. “Saturday we may have some lightning in Manning Park. Sunday we may have some lightning on the south Island and Tuesday we may have lightning again in Manning Park.”

She said more accurate predictions about where and if lightning will occur depend on how weather conditions develop as the weekend approaches.

“Definitely we’re concerned with the weather. We’re definitely concerned with convective activity,” she said.

Twenty-one lighting fires were sparked in the Fraser Valley and the Pemberton Whistler area from convective weather activity that generated lightning storms over the south coast last week.

In spite of drying conditions, camp fires are still allowed.

The B.C. Coast has had 101 wildfires this year, of which 56 fires were caused by people and 45 caused by lightning.

“We always ask people to be careful because we don’t want anything to happen,” Drysdale said.

For more information about campfire safety, please visit B.C. Wildfire Management Branch B.C. Forest Fire Info page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BCForestFireInfo.