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B.C. wildfires likely to spread with weekend temperatures expected to soar, province says

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Wildfire and emergency management officials in British Columbia are urging residents to be prepared for increased fire activity as temperatures are expected to soar above 30 C in parts of the province this weekend.

"With these heightened temperatures, we may see an increase in wildfire activity, particularly in the northeast," Bowinn Ma, minister of emergency management and climate readiness, told reporters in Victoria on Thursday.

"I want to encourage everyone, particularly those living in the northeast, to remain vigilant and to be prepared," she added.

The emergency management minister was joined by Forests Minister Bruce Ralston, whose ministry oversees the province's wildfire service, in advising residents to create an emergency grab-and-go kit and make sure home insurance coverage is up to date.

"Many British Columbians are wondering what to expect this wildfire season, especially with the warm weather in the forecast right now, even though it's only May," Ralston said. "There are many active wildfires in British Columbia, and with temperatures expected to climb this weekend, these numbers will likely grow."

According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, 111 fires were actively burning in the province Thursday morning, with two fires near Fort Nelson categorized as out of control.

'Another challenging wildfire season'

Wildfire officials are especially concerned about the hot and windy conditions forecast over the next 48 hours in the sparsely populated northeastern reaches of the province, the authorities said.

A wildfire incident management team has been dispatched to the Fort Nelson area to establish a command centre ahead of the weekend heatwave.

"Ground resources, helicopters, air tankers, unit crews and initial attack crews are being brought in early to add to existing regional resources," Ralston said.

The province is prepared to issue emergency alerts to cellphones, television and radio broadcasts when necessary through the Alert Ready system, which was tested Wednesday morning.

"During urgent situations, the province will issue emergency alerts like the one you received yesterday to deliver critical information to people who may be at risk," Ma said.

Last summer the province issued two dozen such alerts for wildfire evacuations, she added.

Ongoing drought conditions mean the risk of damaging wildfires over the coming months is significant.

'Multi-year' drought

B.C.'s River Forecast Centre says the province is in a "multi-year" precipitation deficit with persistent drought conditions stretching back to 2022.

On Thursday, B.C.'s minister of water, land and resource stewardship warned that snowpack levels are at 66 per cent of normal volumes across the province.

"Depending on how the snowpack continues to melt, in addition to spring and summer precipitation, there is an increased potential for drought this summer," Nathan Cullen said.

"Much of the water that B.C. uses comes from melting snowpack," he added. "We experienced severe drought last year and remain at high risk going into the season, and that's why we're preparing for what's to come this summer and in the years ahead." 

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