Forests ‘tinder dry’ 

No relief in forecast, extra caution urged

By Andrew Mitchell

Whistler has not had any significant rainfall since early July, prompting Whistler Fire Chief Bruce Hall to ask people to be extra careful when heading into the woods.

“We need people to realize that the forests are tinder dry, and it would take nothing to ignite a significant fire in the area,” he said. “On the other hand we thank the people who have been looking out, who have been in the woods and treated them with respect.”

Whistler Fire Services was on heightened alert through the long weekend, and for the most part things were quiet as people observed the rule against campfires and used caution in other activities. Members did attend three campfires and asked people to put them out, but otherwise Hall says most people complied with posted signs.

Hall adds it will take several days of rain to lower the forest fire hazard from Extreme, and that long term forecasts indicate that things will remain extreme for at least another two weeks.

“One thing we’re seeing happening is that trees are losing their leaves already because of the lack of water, and the stress that the drought is having on trees,” he said. “That’s usually a good sign that things are about as dry as they can be right now.

“The message is to be careful in the woods. Don’t smoke in forested areas, please don’t have campfires in forested areas.”

The drought is also impacting other areas of the province. The resort of Tofino has reported a severe water shortage that threatened to close hotels and businesses before the long weekend. The Wickaninnish Inn shut for seven days during the shortage, but reopened this past week.

Several large fires are also burning in the interior of the province, the largest being the Tatoosh fire which is burning on both sides of the B.C.-Washington border at Manning Provincial Park. The fire covered 23 square kilometres at press time with smoke preventing fire crews from battling the blaze. Several towns near the fire were also on evacuation alert on Wednesday.

The fire was started in Washington on Aug. 22 with a lightning strike.  

According to Environment Canada, this summer is one of the driest on record for the southwest corner of the province. Vancouver International Airport reported 326.6 hours of sunshine for the month of August, or 22 per cent more than the average of 268 hours for the month.

For Whistler, rainfall was above average in the month of June, 80 mm compared to an average of 58.1 mm, although things dried up after June 19.

July was extremely dry with the resort getting just 12.5 mm of rain, compared to the 30-year average of 47.7, including one of the hottest days on record – 38.8 degrees Celsius, compared to a previous high of 38.2 in 1988.

August saw slightly more rain, 18.3 mm, which is still low compared to the normal average of 47.5 mm.

All data is preliminary according to the Environment Canada Weather Office at , but will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

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