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B.C. wildfires: Dry lightning, heavy smoke posing challenges for crews

Not only are crews battling fires and dealing with rising temperatures and smoky conditions, they're also up against outside factors.

As BC Wildfire Service continues to battle more than 240 fires across the province, they’re facing unexpected challenges.

Fire information officer Karley Desrosiers tells Glacier Media drones have been spotted flying around wildfires and are causing their members issues while fighting the fires. 

“It’s happened near Lytton and in the southeast region,” she says. 

Crews are up against heavy smoke and dry conditions. They’re also preparing for temperatures to ramp up, which Desrosiers says will likely create more growth on many of the infernos. 

“Smoke is continuing to be an issue,” she says.

Not only is smoke coming from fires around B.C., but also from Washington, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

Smoky conditions do bring down temperatures but it creates an issue for the fight on the ground and in the sky. 

There are 245 wildfires burning across the province as of Thursday morning, 35.8 per cent are burning out of control and 81 of the fires are in the Kamloops Fire Centre.

Desrosiers says BC Wildfire Service is preparing for dry lightning in the forecast, which will complicate current conditions.

“We are making sure our initial attack crews are in place in those regions. … We have a number of fires burning and resources continue to be an issue,” she says. 

Dry lightning could come Saturday, possibly earlier.

“Certainly in the south, the entire southern part of the province, there is potential for more fire starts,” she says. 

Since April 1, a total of 454,433 hectares have burned and there are currently 3,693 firefighters and other personnel fighting the fires. 

“White Rock Lake wildfire is growing quite a bit,” says Desrosiers.

As of Thursday morning, the White Rock Lake wildfire just 56 km northeast of Merritt is 20,000 hectares. 

"Conditions on site are extremely smoky, which is hampering the ability for aircraft to fly and challenging suppression efforts,” states the BC Wildfire Service. "Heavy smoke in the area is also impacting hydro lines. As a result, power outages have occurred and may continue to do so.”

Many of the incoming resources for the BC Wildfire Service are being put toward the Okanagan. 

“The Okanagan region is where the Mexican firefighters are, in Osoyoos, and the 100 firefighters are in the Okanagan complex,” says Desrosiers.

People living near Osoyoos are being asked to lower their energy use between 4 and 8 p.m. this long weekend, according to a FortisBC statement.

"Last week, when we asked residents to lower their energy use, we did see less electricity load on our system and we thank everyone who helped us during this time," says spokesperson Jas Baweja.

Sixty-eight new properties are now on evacuation order, for a total of 3,443 properties across the province. 

If you have a wildfire story or information we should know about, reach out to reporter Alanna Kelly at [email protected].

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