Heat warning in effect for B.C. as firefighters battle wildfires in province

VANCOUVER — The number of wildfires in British Columbia climbed slightly Saturday to 245, as officials braced for potential lightning that could spark even more blazes.

An information officer with the BC Wildfire Service says there were 241 fires burning earlier in the day, but the number rose as lightning struck the Coastal fire centre.

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Erika Berg notes the number of wildfires is still down from the 300 that were active last week.

There are heat warnings in effect across swaths of British Columbia at the moment, but temperatures are expected to cool over the weekend.

Berg says the cooler temperatures could bring even more lightning, so officials will be on the lookout.

Most of the blazes are in the Kamloops, Southeast, Prince George and Cariboo fire centres, said a news release from the service.

Environment Canada meteorologist Derek Lee says this weekend's heat warning doesn't mean British Columbians should expect a repeat of last month's record-breaking scorcher.

"This weekend is just above normal or above seasonal and warmer temperatures than what we would expect for a summer day for a lot of the regions in southern B.C. here," he said.

"So, we did end up issuing heat warnings for a lot of the regions in southern B.C."

Temperatures are forecast to cool down through the course of the weekend, he said.

The Village of Lytton, which shattered Canada's all-time heat record when the mercury nearly reached 50 C, was expected to reach 39 C Saturday. Its low was forecast to be 21 overnight, and Lee said it would be "still rather warm" at 33 C Sunday.

The record for Lytton on July 31 was 42.2 degrees C in 1971 and 41.1 C for Aug. 1, 1965.

Meantime, the wildfire service said there are 60 evacuation orders affecting 3,120 properties, an increase of 62, while there are 97 evacuation alerts.

More than 2,000 firefighting personnel -- including nearly 300 from out-of-province --are helping fight the blazes that have charred 4707.84 square kilometres so far, it said.

All of Vancouver Island, the south coast and stretches of the southern Interior are classified as drought level four out of five. Many municipalities and regions are implementing measures to conserve water through the rest of the summer.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2021.

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