The forest fires picked up on the 4th of July, set off by lightning storms that we’d admired in the early evening from the safety of our porch only two nights before. Nature’s fireworks. We get weather in the mountains, something always moving through. And in the dry intensity of the previous month, the convection heat built the clouds and the clouds brought their beautiful anger and the lightning sparked the forests. The bone dry forests.
The only precipitation we’ve had in the last month was the torrential rains associated with that storm. Not enough to extinguish the cracks of lightning on wood, not enough to prevent the fires from spreading. We live in an interior temperate rainforest. That means it rains a lot, not all the time, but June is traditionally one of our wettest months. The heat of summer doesn’t usually start until mid-July and lasts six weeks, two months if we’re lucky. This year we hit 90 degrees in mid-May and haven’t looked back.
There are three new fires within our view. A smokey haze dulls the horizons up and down the lake. We’re just starting to taste the smoke in the backs of our throats. The biggest fire is burning up Sitkum Creek, 10kms from the town of Nelson. It’s reached 360 hectares and the winds are blowing. Luckily for now, they’re blowing the fire away from the 320 houses that are on evacuation alert.
In our inland temperate rainforest, we have big, natural stands of fir, larch, pine, spruce and cedar. But that rainforest might not be rainforest forever. Climate modeling suggests the potential for a dryland ecosystem by 2050. Doesn’t mean all the forests will be gone, but we’ll have the potential for it. And the way we get from rainforest to dryland is fire.
We only started talking about fire season ten years ago. Spring, Summer, Fire Season, Fall. Some years its bad, others we’re lucky. But fire season is in August, not the beginning of July. The two week forecast is for continued hot and dry, who knows what the rest of summer will bring. We’re locked in a jet stream pattern that’s sending all the moisture north of us. Maybe it’s the strong El Nino, maybe it’s climate change. Likely one is contributing to the other. Either way, this is what extreme looks like.