Wild­fire of­fi­cial urges vig­i­lance

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

A change in weather could of­fer Bri­tish Columbians a break from an oth­er­wise fe­ro­cious start to this year's wild­fire sea­son, but a pro­vin­cial of­fi­cial says a few days of rain isn't nec­es­sar­ily enough to hit the re­set but­ton on weeks of soar­ing tem­per­a­tures and parched con­di­tions.

“It does ap­pear that we've got a bit of a tem­po­rary re­prieve from the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion ... but we are still very early in the sum­mer and the weather is fickle and chang­ing daily,” said Kevin Skrep­nek, a B.C. Wild­fire Ser­vice spokesman. “We need to en­sure that peo­ple aren't get­ting com­pla­cent as a re­sult of this rain.”

This shift in weather is ex­pected to con­tinue, said Skrep­nek, with cooler tem­per­a­tures and scat­tered rain forecast across the province over the com­ing week.

A camp­fire ban re­mains in place provincewide as more than 250 fires rage across B.C., al­most 50 of which be­gan on Satur­day.

So far in 2015, 1,065 fires have con­sumed nearly 2,800 square kilo­me­tres across the province - a sub­stan­tial jump from this time last year, when 462 fires had burned a mere 200 square kilo­me­tres.

About 2,400 per­son­nel are busy fight­ing the flames - whether on the fire line or in sup­port po­si­tions - more than 1,000 of which are con­tract work­ers.

B.C. has called in about 100 per­son­nel from out­side the province, in­clud­ing from On­tario, Que­bec and the Mar­itimes.

On Mon­day, 52 Aus­tralian fire­fight­ers are sched­uled to ar­rive into B.C. to help with fire re­lief ef­forts, while another con­tin­gent of Down Un­der per­son­nel will soon show up to as­sist in other Western Cana­dian prov­inces.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has also signed a one-month con­tract to use the Martin Mars wa­ter bomber, a vet­eran fire­fight­ing plane based in Port Alberni, B.C.

“The Mars is an iconic air­craft,” said Skrep­nek about the aged air tanker, which can un­load 27,000 litre pay­load in a sin­gle flyby. “It has a some­what lim­ited mis­sion pro­file (but) in the right sit­u­a­tion it is an in­cred­i­bly ef­fec­tive tool.”

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