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Some ‘holdover’ 2023 B.C. wildfires still smouldering, showing smoke

BC Wildfire Service this is expected from larger fires, and due to the ongoing drought conditions
Smoke billows from the Donnie Creek wildfire burning north of Fort St. John, British Columbia, on Sunday, July 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Noah Berger

BC Wildfire Service says some 2023 wildfires in northeastern B.C. continue to smoulder and smoke, but it’s expected.

A bulletin posted Friday (Feb. 9) from the wildfire service says that the Prince George Fire Centre – B.C.’s largest fire centre –is aware that some “holdover” fires from the 2023 season are smouldering in some areas and producing visible smoke.

A holdover fire is one that remains dormant and undetected for a considerable time after it starts, which is common in lightning-caused fires.

“It is possible for large fires to move deep underground and “slumber” undetected for a period of time. Heat can simmer underground for days, weeks, or even months. As the weather dries out and temperatures rise, these fires can flare up,” reads the bulletin.

This map shows fires that may still remain active within the Prince George Fire Centre as of Feb. 9, 2024. (BC Wildfire Service)

The service says it’s expected on wildfires of considerable size or in areas experiencing ongoing drought conditions, and the Prince George Fire Centre has both.

It plans to monitor the holdover fires and determine what needs to be done as spring, and the next wildfire season, approached. Ground and air patrols can be done to look for smoke and heat, while ground patrols can also focus on identifying smoke plumes.

As of Feb. 1, B.C. is at 39 per cent below normal snowpack levels, with the south coast and Vancouver Island experience the worst levels. The northeastern portion of the province is anywhere between 50 and 69 per cent of normal levels.

The report points out that two to three months still remain in the snow season, but its tone is not optimistic.

“While conditions may change slightly over this period, current trends in low snowpack are expected to persist,” it reads.

READ MORE: B.C.’s snowpack is 39% below normal levels

Prince George Fire Centre had a reported 672 wildfires reported, burning more than 2.27 million hectares. Two of the provinces largest wildfires were in the region: Big Creek (Omineca River) and Donnie Creek, which burned 166,000 and 619,000 hectares, respectively.

– With files from Wolf Depner

Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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