Expect very busy fire season, cooler weather in fall

Expect a busy fire season in region. (B.C. Wildfire photo)

Expect a busy fire season in region. (B.C. Wildfire photo)

That ill wind that blew through the region all afternoon yesterday is just part of the new weather reality that will last into summer.

And even though the trend toward winter will be wetter and cooler, this year’s fire season is going to be long and very busy.

Those forecasts come from a couple of experts who know what they’re talking about.

Lisa Coldwells, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, and Hugh Murdoch, a forest protection officer with the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch, gave members of the TNRD emergency management committee the lowdown recently on what to expect.

Coldwells said a body of warm ocean water off the B.C. coast known as The Blob has broken up and El Nino — a river of warm water on the equator off Peru that sent us warmer weather than usual last winter — is gradually weakening and will be replaced by its opposite, La Nina, in the fall.

“Back and forth the pendulum swings,” she said, adding that this month will be slightly above normal, while July and August will be typical summer months. Then La Nina starts to take hold, and we can expect a large snowpack next winter.

In the meantime, thunder and wind storms with occasional heavy rain interrupted by dry spells can be expected.

We know El Nino and La Nina cause these shifts in weather patterns, but what causes El Nino and La Nina?

“That’s the eternal mystery,” she said.

Hugh Murdoch said there’s “clearly a correlation” between seasonal weather patterns and significant fire years, and the fire season is getting longer. The last three years have been “exceptionally busy” especially in the north.

Aside from weather, the increase in the number of people taking to the outdoors for camping excursions also affects fire activity.

This will be a “very big year,” he said. “Locally we should expect to be very busy.”

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