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B.C. wildfires: Drenching rain may bring relief, but also ‘debris flows’

Up to to 80 millimetres of Interior rainfall forecast, localized flooding possible
A fallen tree burns at the Lower East Adams Lake wildfire, in Scotch Creek, B.C., on Sunday, August 20, 2023. Firefighters in British Columbia’s southern interior continue to battle a number of significant wildfires even as cooler, wetter weather is anticipated in the region. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Drenching rainfall is being predicted for a broad sweep of British Columbia’s fire-ravaged Interior, bringing up to 80 millimetres of rain and possible relief for fire crews battling blazes that have forced thousands from their homes.

But the forecast is also associated with warnings of potential localized flooding and “debris flows” as rains hit the fire-scorched landscape.

Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch late Tuesday for the Shuswap region — one of the hardest hit fire zones — and there was heavy rain in the region overnight, with Salmon Arm recording 12 millimetres of rain yesterday, the biggest single-day total all year.

The forecast calls for rain to possibly continue today, with a 70 per cent chance of showers in the afternoon lasting through early evening.

The wet weather is forecast to be accompanied by possible lightning and wind gusts northward up to 50 kilometres per hour.

Rainfall warnings have gone into effect for the South Peace River and Upper Fraser regions, with the forests ministry saying in a high streamflow advisory that rivers are expected to “respond rapidly” and rise quickly.

It says wildfire activity “may exacerbate localized run-off” and increase the risk of debris flows in areas scorched by fires, although widespread flooding isn’t expected.

Rain is also expected today in Kelowna, with a 60 per cent chance of showers aiding firefighters combating the McDougall Creek fire near the city, while the province has lifted travel restrictions to most communities in the southern Interior other than West Kelowna.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District is meanwhile warning about misinformation being spread online.

It says it has been made aware of emails and social media posts saying people do not need a permit to go into evacuation order areas, but clarifies that this information is “completely false” and a permit is required.

This comes after federal and provincial officials publicly urged social media company Meta to reinstate access to Canadian news on its platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, so residents have easy access to accurate and up-to-date information amid the province’s ongoing wildfire crisis.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District said Tuesday that the Bush Creek East wildfire has forced the evacuation of 11,000 people and destroyed buildings, including the firehall at Scotch Creek.

The BC Wildfire Service says 120 wildland firefighters and 105 structural firefighters are deployed to that blaze, while heavy smoke in the area continues to prevent the use of fixed-wing water bombers to combat the fire.

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