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Alberta smoke draws west

Spring may be in the air but so is the smoke from distant wildfires burning in northern Alberta. Residents in the Penticton area may have noticed hazy conditions recently, but according to B.C. Forest Service officials there are no fires burning locally.

“I’m no expert on that but what I’m hearing from Environment Canada is that the smoke is coming from those fires in Alberta,” said information officer Michaela Swan of the Forest Service. “So far this year (starting April 1) we’ve only had 41 fires and our 10-year average is 76.

“It’s the precipitation for sure, we’ve seen cooler temperatures and with that precipitation we’ve also seen a green up of the fuels (combustible materials).”

The current fire rating in the Kamloops district, which includes the Penticton area, is low and that is expected to remain for the coming weeks. Despite the smoke in the Valley the risk level of the air quality index remains at low. According to meteorologist Doug Lundquist, of Environment Canada, in the last 30 days there has been 62.4 mm of rain compared to 29.5 mm normally. Temperatures for that period were down but only less than a degree.

“Compared to last year, where we had almost no winter and spring started so early, it seems like more of a difference than in reality, but it’s definitely been on the wet side for the last 30-90 days,” said Lundquist who blamed the current conditions on La Nina. “The rain years are very critical to the people you’re asking about (Forest Service workers). From May 15 to July 17 is the monsoon season in the Okanagan  and we need this moisture.”

June is generally the wettest month of the year. This weekend should be nice with temperatures in the high 20’s or low 30’s.

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