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Fire hazard remains Extreme


As of Wednesday, the Fire Danger Rating Map for B.C. was predominantly high with huge swaths of land rated at Extreme. Only a few small patches here and there were rated at Moderate, and only the northeast corner of the province - aside from some patches of the Kootenays - has any sizeable areas rated at Low or Very Low.

Whistler's rating has now been at Extreme for over a week and will likely stay at Extreme or High for the near future, with no precipitation in the forecast. According to Whistler Fire Services Chief Rob Whitton, "it will take some significant cooling and some significant rain - two or three days of solid rain to get back to Moderate, although I would expect it to get back to High pretty quickly."

Whitton says it would take more than a few days of rain to permeate underground enough to reduce the fire danger rating for any length of time. "That's what we're hoping for, but if the forecast is right then there's no end in sight to the sun."

Things have been quiet for Whistler Fire Services, although they did get several calls earlier in the week after residents smelled smoke from a large fire in the Lillooet area.

"I think everyone is on edge because of the Jade Wildfire near Lillooet," said Whitton. "They did a controlled back burn a few days ago that really increased the amount of smoke in the air, and with the wind currents shifting Whistler got a good portion of it. But, touch wood, we haven't experienced anything yet."

The Jade Wildfire, caused by lightning, is one of the largest in the province at this time, measuring roughly 670 hectares in the Yalakom valley. On Tuesday afternoon it was roughly 15 per cent contained, although the rough terrain has made it difficult to get under control.

Currently 100 firefighters and eight helicopters are battling the wildfire. An evacuation alert was issued for the Yalakom Valley on July 22, affecting roughly 85 residents in 30 homes.

Campfires and open flames such as torches are currently banned in the Coastal Fire Centre and Whistler, including at private residences. Charcoal and wood barbecues are also banned in public parks, and wood barbecues are banned at private residences.

As well, all work with power tools and machinery is banned within 10 metres of the forest interface, which has impacted work in several areas including the new Valley Trail link between Cheakamus Crossing and Spring Creek. For the most part, Whitton says contractors have been diligent when observing the fire rating.

Currently there are 29 active wildfires burning across B.C. that are rated as "significant," or over one hectare is size.



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