Okanagan washouts could have connection to wildfires

The ministry said wildfires have impacted the severity of some landslides and washouts

It’s possible with the recent erosion events in the Okanagan, that there is a connection to wildfire as steep slopes that are no longer protected by organic matter and short vegetation are more likely to slide, said a UBC Okanagan professor.

After wildfire ravages an area, steep slopes left unprotected by vegetation have the potential to move, said David Scott, earth and environmental sciences professor at UBCO.

READ MORE: Through your lens: Okanagan wildfires

In recent years, the severity of summer wildfires has impacted the regularity of some landslides and washouts, according to the Ministry of Transportation.

The most recent slide along Highway 33 was caused by a number of factors, including rapid freezing and thawing conditions as well as melting snow and rain, according to the Ministry of Transportation in a statement.

READ MORE: B.C. wildfire season now second worst in province’s history

The ministry is also working with Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource and Rural Development to understand the impact of wildfires and monitor those areas affected to see if there’s a change in the water runoff.

Another large rock slide, which crews are currently working on north of Summerland, was caused by rapid freezing and thawing conditions.

READ MORE: Alternate route highlighted as Highway 97 closure continues

“These conditions are a common occurrence across much of the province in late winter or early spring, especially in the southern Interior,” the ministry’s statement said.

Wildfires that reduce vegetation cover can result in deeper snowpacks that melt faster than normal, according to Scott’s published article, Wildfires and Watershed Effects in the Southern B.C. Interior.

READ MORE: Trails closed in Kelowna regional park due to landslide

READ MORE: Kelowna subdivision slope erosion fuels landslide fears

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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