Smoky skies for today in the Okanagan and Shuswap

Inversion layer trapping wildfire smoke

Gray, smoky and drizzly appears to be the order of the day throughout the communities of the Kamloops Fire Centre.

“The first thing people are seeing right now when they wake up, and smelling, is the smoke that has come in. A lot of that has to do with the change in weather we are seeing right now,” said Rachel Wirth, fire information officer with B.C. WIldfire. “The smoke is really socked in throughout the Kamloops Fire Centre. It induces a bit of an eerie feeling that there could be fire nearby.”

The heavy smoke is also affecting BCWS operations, in some cases, preventing helicopters from flying and accurate mapping for fires.

Lightning throughout Saturday sparked 40 new fires in the Kamloops fire centre; 27 of those are believed to be lightning at this time.

A few are still under investigation, but it’s likely, according to Wirth, that others will also be classed as lightning caused. Most, 36, are estimated to be spot-sized, less than 0.01 hectares. That’s very small, Wirth said, and typical in the kind of lightning storms the region experienced yesterday.

“We did know it was coming and we prioritized an initial attack response, so we could make sure we could get crews on those fires while they were that small,” said Wirth.

The layers of smoke are making it hard to estimate the size of fires such as the Juliet Creek fire, discovered Wednesday southwest of Merritt and last estimated at 600 hectares. The last update from BCWS says the fire is expected to grow, partly due to a more accurate estimate of the perimeter when they can better map it

“We can’t assess much from the air at this point, because of the smoke,” said Wirth. “It’s a bit doom and gloomy out there be out there right now.

“We should get some lighter winds today, which is good. A lot of places where we did experience heavy lightning yesterday, it was accompanied by precipitation, so that was good.”

The largest fire in the region, Snowy Mountain in the Similkameen, continues to grow slowly and is estimated at 13,359 hectares. It is still considered out of control, but the nearby Placer Mountain fire is classified as under control at 2,372 hectares.

While winds grounded helicopters yesterday, fire information officer Noelle Kekula said, the fire didn’t expand towards towns in the air.

The fire danger rating is still high to extreme and Wirth reminds people to be cautious.

“These crews need to go out to those Lightning-caused fires, not to human-caused fires that are preventable,” said Wirth.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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