BRITISH COLUMBIA

Rising Mercury Increases B.C. Fire Risk

08/18/2012 03:22 EDT | Updated 10/18/2012 05:12 EDT
Flickr: JustyCinMD
Rising temperatures are taking a toll throughout B.C., increasing the fire risk and affecting air quality.

Fire crews from other parts of Canada are arriving in B.C. this weekend as the province prepares for an increase in wildfires.

A 21-member Yukon fire crew is arriving in Williams Lake Saturday, while 20 firefighters from Saskatchewan will head to Abbotsford Sunday, while 35 firefighters from Ontario will arrive in Kamloops.

"We are expecting warm and dry conditions throughout the province this weekend, and also a risk of thundershower activity in part of British Columbia," says fire information officer Erin Catherall.

"The fire danger rating across B.C. is mostly high, with some areas of moderate and many pockets of extreme. With this warmer weather, we are expecting the fire danger rating to change."

The fire risk is extreme on southern Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and in areas north of Chilliwack and Squamish.

The fire risk is also extreme in the central and southern Interiors at Ashcroft, Alexis Creek, Salmon Arm, the Adams Lake area and Osoyoos. Many areas in the north are also at extreme fire risk.

The only campfire ban in effect is in the Kamloops area, but Catherall says there are restrictions elsewhere.

"Campers are allowed to have a fire no more than half a meter wide by half a meter high," Catherall said.

"Campers are required to have a shovel and at least eight litres of water nearby to help extinguish your campfire."

Violators could face a fine of up to $345 — with everyone sitting around the offending blaze eligible for one of the pricey tickets.

Heat-related deaths

Officials with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control say Lower Mainland residents should be careful as the heat rises.

Spokeswoman Sarah Henderson says people die at relatively lower temperatures — around 34 C — in Vancouver.

"We really do see this kind of mortality effect at lower temperatures than you would see elsewhere in Canada, but this kind of thing has been observed in other places with mild climates."

Henderson says people elsewhere in Canada are better adapted to the heat, and change their behaviour when temperatures rise.

"You can get in trouble with the heat quickly," Henderson said.

"The thing we see that characterizes heat-related mortality is a very rapid demise. So be very aware of yourself in the heat and do your very best to stay cool."

Air, water quality impacted

The hot weather has also led to a boil-water advisory for a Chilliwack community.

Residents living in the Mt. Shannon area on Little Mountain should boil drinking water because of high E. coli counts in the water.

City officials are chlorinating and flushing out the water system, which is expected to be completed by late Sunday.

The weather also led to an air-quality advisory in eastern parts of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, which was cancelled Saturday afternoon.

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