Fire crews in southern British Columbia are preparing for possible lightning this weekend, after several days of light winds and a few thunderstorms helped reduce the number of active fires in the province by about 20 percent.
The QB Fire Service says it is currently burning 242 fires, up from about 300 last week.
But heat warnings or special weather statements now cover much of the BC, packing temperatures from the low 30s in the northeast to 40 C in the Fraser Canyon and Boundary regions.
Rob Schweitzer, director of fire center operations with the widespread fire service, warns that heat combined with limited cooling at night can contribute to severe burning conditions before they are extinguished.
Closure of Stanley Park
The Vancouver Park Board announced Friday afternoon that it will be temporarily closing non-essential access to Stanley Park between 10 pm and 6 am starting Friday evening.
According to a statement on the city’s website, the closure is aimed at reducing the risk of fires in the park.
Park rangers will set up temporary overnight access checkpoints at five locations around the park to reduce the number of individuals in the park overnight. Vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians and anyone who does not need access to the park will be turned back at the access control points.
The Stanley Park Causeway will remain open but access to the sea wall will be closed.
The temporary closure will be in place seven days a week starting on 30 July and will extend indefinitely until the risk of fire is significantly reduced.
Smoke comes to shore
Metro Vancouver and the South Coast have been cleared of smoky fog that is choking air in many parts of the BC Interior, but that is expected to change over the weekend.
Fog contains fine particulate matter, which can be especially difficult for people with respiratory problems.
Christopher Rodell with FireSmoke Canada says that smoky skies may arrive on Saturday morning, but that the wind from the west will likely push it eastward until Sunday.
Environment Canada had not issued air quality advice for Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley since Friday morning.
The agency predicts possible milkings for Metro Vancouver early tonight and the chance of precipitation spreading south inland over the long weekend. But lightning is also in the forecast for regions that are already rated at high to extreme risk of fire.
Emergency Management BC says 60 evacuation orders covering just over 3,000 properties remain in place, while residents of nearly 19,000 other properties should be ready to leave at short notice.
Evacuation orders were downgraded to warnings late Thursday for several properties near a 654-square-mile fire burning northwest of Kamloops.
But the widespread fire service says the fires and most of the nearly three dozen listed as notable fires remain out of control and continue to challenge firefighters on at least one side.