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Forest fire danger rising with temperature; extreme danger on southern Island

Aug 16 2012

Sunny skies and soaring temperatures have placed southern Vancouver Island in the extreme fire danger range, the Coastal Fire Centre said Wednesday.

The southern tip of Vancouver Island, south of Nanaimo and south of Port Renfrew is in the extreme fire danger rating, said Donna MacPherson, fire information officer for the centre. The fire danger for Port Alberni and the area from Campbell River to Sayward is also rated extreme.

“In extreme, what we’re talking about is how likely is it that a spark will start something,” said MacPherson. “When you get into extreme, we anticipate every spark could start a fire ... It’s 100 per cent ignition in the afternoons.”

Vancouver Island hasn’t significant rain for some time and hot weather for the past two days has quickly dried out forests in coastal B.C., said MacPherson. Although the forecast calls for lightning this weekend, it could be 10 days before any rain falls.

As temperatures continue to climb, other parts of Vancouver Island may also move into the extreme fire danger range.

“We’re asking people to be as cautious as possible when they’re out in the forest,” said MacPherson.

Camp fires should be small, in the right place, and completely extinguished when people leave a campsite. Smokers must also be very careful about cigarettes and not toss them away.

“Carry a container with a bit of water and drop it in there,” said MacPherson. “Don’t roll down your window and chuck a burning cigarette out.”

All-terrain vehicles are also a problem, said the fire officer. People drive ATVs around in the dry grass and the grass gets caught up in the undercarriage where the muffler sits. The grass catches on fire because the muffler is hot.

“If you’re driving around, please drive in the dirt, not in the grass,” said MacPherson.

On its website, the Wildfire Management Branch says it has received reports of generalized smoke in Port Alberni, Pemberton, the Fraser Valley and many areas throughout the southern and central interior.

“Most of the province is experiencing hazy skies as a result of smoke,” says the notice. “We do have active fires throughout the province but do not currently have any wildfires that would produce this amount of smoke. The smoke you are seeing is coming from Russia. It is being drawn across the Pacific due to the current weather pattern.”

 People are asked to report plumes of smoke or flames at *5555 on their cell or 1-800-663-5555 on a landline.

A map of the fire danger ratings for the province can be seen at http://bcwildfire.ca/Weather/Maps/danger_rating.htm.

ldickson@timescolonist.com


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