High winds in forecast pose looming fire threat, B.C. Wildfire Service says, as heat wave peaks

The latest:

  • Seasonal temperatures are expected to return to southern B.C. starting Thursday, but wildfire officials say incoming winds will increase fire risk.
  • Some residents west of Lillooet and near Keremeos were placed on evacuation order due to expanding wildfires.
  • 19 daily heat records were broken on Tuesday, including a high of 42.2 C in Lytton, according to Environment Canada.

While scorching temperatures were expected to reach their climax Tuesday in a prolonged heat wave in southern British Columbia, the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) says the greatest wildfire risk won’t come until later this week.

Fire information officer Sarah Budd says a cold front from the northwest due Thursday will hit the high-pressure system bringing the current heat, creating strong winds, dry lightning and a greater potential for new fire starts.

Budd says it comes as the heat wave that began Sunday and swept across the southern half of the province is already challenging firefighting efforts on active blazes.

Another 19 daily temperature records were broken on Tuesday, according to Environment Canada, including a countrywide high mark of 42.2 C in Lytton. 

The weather agency said several other communities in B.C. broke the 40 C barrier, including Ashcroft, Lillooet, Pemberton and Warfield near Trail.

Both Kelowna and Kamloops hit new daily highs Tuesday at 38.6 C and 39.6 C, respectively, with the Kamloops mark breaking a record going back to 1967.


Environment Canada meteorologist Greg Walters said the high temperatures were all related to an extremely warm air mass over the province.

“The records that have been broken, some of them go back quite a ways,” he said. “It’s certainly a significant event for this time of year.”

Walters said the forecast shows a return to more seasonal temperatures across the province, which means highs 5-7 C cooler on Friday. “So, it’s kind of a return to normal conditions,” he said.

More stories on wildfires and heat:

But that cooling trend and associated winds and lightning are troubling for those on the frontline of B.C.’s worst wildfire season to date in terms of area burned, with more than 1,700 wildfires charring about 16,000 square kilometres so far this year.

Budd says the BCWS is prepared for the Kamloops and Southeast fire centres to be the most affected by Thursday’s forecast, both for new starts and an increase in fire activity on existing wildfires.

Roughly 370 wildfires are burning in the province, 145 are considered out of control and 11 are classified as fires of note, meaning they are highly visible or threaten people or property.

New evacuation orders, alerts

Late Tuesday, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen issued an evacuation order for 13 properties in Electoral Area B and Electoral Area G along the Ashnola River in Cathedral Provincial Park, including the Cathedral Lakes Lodge and in the Snowy Protected Area.

They were triggered by the seven-square-kilometre Crater Creek wildfire and the five-square-kilometre Gillanders Creek wildfire.

Approximately 150 people have been told to shelter in place at the lodge, as officials plan how to safely get them out — “whether they can get us down via vehicle or if they’ll have to send in helicopter,” said Emma Roberts from the lodge.

Officials say an emergency support services reception centre has been activated at the Village of Keremeos Victory Hall.

The same two blazes also prompted an evacuation alert for 74 properties in the area along the Similkameen River in Electoral Area G, from Keremeos west following Highway 3 for 13 kilometres.

The Crater Creek wildfire was discovered on July 22, 2023 and is located 18 kilometres southwest of Keremeos. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

Also on Tuesday, the Casper Creek wildfire burning west of Lillooet grew to 4.6 square kilometres and forced further evaucation orders.

Early Wednesday morning the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District issued an evacuation order for nine properties and RCMP officers went door to door alerting affected residents to leave.

Evacuation alerts were also issued for all properties from north of Connel Creek to Seton Portage due to the fire, which has been burning since July 11.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says strong winds pushed the fire across Mission Mountain Road noting the road has now been closed.

Anyone placed under an evacuation order should leave the area immediately. 

Evacuation centres have been set up throughout the province to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire.

To find the centre closest to you, visit the EmergencyInfoBC

Leave a Comment