Showers, lightning in forecast for some B.C. wildfires, with smoke expected to reach coast

Wildfire crews in British Columbia’s southern Interior are bracing for possible lightning this weekend, after several days of light winds and few thunderstorms helped trim the number of active fires in the province by about 20 per cent.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says 242 wildfires are currently blazing, down from about 300 last week.

But heat warnings or special weather statements now cover much of B.C., packing temperatures from the low 30s in the northeast to 40 C in the Fraser Canyon and Boundary regions.

Rob Schweitzer, director of fire centre operations with the wildfire service, warns that the heat along with limited cooling at night could contribute to severe burning conditions before easing.

Smoke coming to the coast

Metro Vancouver and the South Coast have been spared from the smoky haze that’s choking the air in many parts of the B.C. Interior, but that is expected to change this weekend.

The haze contains fine particulate matter, which can be especially difficult for people with respiratory issues.

Christopher Rodell with Fire Smoke Canada says smoky skies could arrive Saturday morning, but that winds from the west will likely push it eastward by Sunday.

Environment Canada had not issued an air quality advisory for Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley as of Friday morning.

The agency predicts possible showers for Metro Vancouver as early as tonight and the chance of precipitation spreads through the southern Interior over the long weekend. But lightning is also in the forecast for regions already ranked at high to extreme risk of wildfires.

Emergency Management B.C. says 60 evacuation orders covering just over 3,000 properties remain in effect, while residents of nearly 19,000 other properties must be ready to leave on short notice.

Evacuation orders were downgraded to alerts late Thursday for several properties near a 654-square kilometre wildfire burning northwest of Kamloops.

But the wildfire service says that blaze and most of the nearly three dozen listed as fires of note remain out of control and continue to challenge firefighters on at least one flank.

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