Already one of the hottest and driest years on record, June set records and little change is in the forecast.
June is usually the “cold low month” of summer, but every official organization is ringing the alarm bells about the “tinder-dry conditions,” as Environment Canada meteorologist Andre Besson said.
Besson said with an average temperature of 17.5 C, Victoria recorded its warmest June on record, beating the record of 17 C from 1958. The city — the closest for which official figures were available — also received just 4.6 mm of rain, down from the average 30.6 mm.
“That’s definitely significant — the general pattern across the Island and south coast has been extremely dry,” he said. “That’s not helping the dry conditions on the ground.”
“It’s due to a ridge of high pressure offshore pushing the moisture north,” he said, adding the north was actually wetter than normal.
And the hot dry conditions are forecast to continue throughout the summer, with no rain expected for at least the next 10 days, Besson said.
As a result the Coastal Fire Centre is expanding the existing fire bans as of noon today, Thursday, July 2. “The public’s assistance is requested to help reduce the number of human-caused fires and to enable crews to respond to naturally occurring wildfires,” states a news release. Currently you are allowed to use briquettes in established campfire rings in campgrounds, but as of Thursday, briquettes can only be used in ULC or CSA-approved devices with flames smaller than 15 cm.
All other types of open fires are already prohibited, throughout the Coastal Fire Centre, which includes the entire Island and south coast. This means no backyard burning, land-clearing, burning barrels, firecrackers, sky lanterns and binary exploding targets.
Parksville’s Canada Day fireworks did go ahead, considered a low risk on a barge in the middle of Parksville Bay.
The prohibition covers all provincial parks, Crown land and private lands not covered by a municipal fire bylaw, but local municipalities follow the lead of the fire centre and impose the same restrictions. Fines start at $345 and, if convicted in court, can reach $100,000 and/or jail time.
And along with the fire risk, an Environment Canada bulletin warns that the heat wave increases the risk of heat-related illnesses, “with daytime high temperatures flirting with 30 degrees this weekend on the east side of the island.”
They warn people to stay out of the sun during the hottest time of the day, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Qualicum Beach council protective services liaison Bill Luchtmeijer suggested that people take the heat and fire hazards seriously and take measures like keeping water in your car in case you get stuck on the highway and being extra careful with barbecues.
“I think the community as a whole has an obligation to each other and keep in mind it’s a tinder box right now.”
Similarly the B.C. River Forecast Centre issued a low streamflow advisory last week for 17 waterways on Vancouver Island including the Englishman and Little Qualicum Rivers.
The Englishman is flowing at 1.23 m3/s, which is 29 per cent of the median flow, just above the recorded minimum for this time of year.
The Little Qualicum is flowing at 1.18 m3/s, 19 per cent of the median, setting a new record low for this period.
Qualicum Beach director of engineering Bob Weir said the town is in the fortunate position of getting it’s water from wells that have not been badly affected yet.
He does point out that they are seeing higher than normal usage and suggests people voluntarily conserve as much as they can.
People are currently allowed to water their lawns from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. daily.
The restrictions are stricter in Parksville and the Regional District of Nanaimo where you can only water every other day between the hours of 6-10 a.m. and 6-10 p.m. for one hour per period in the RDN, two hours in Parksville.
The forecast centre points out snow pack conditions were already at historic lows this past winter on Vancouver Island.