Can B.C. dodge eye-watering, throat-choking wildfires this summer?

Remember last summer when we rubbed shoulders at concerts and live theatre; cheek-to-jowl at our favourite restaurants and watering holes? Remember when we mingled in crowds at Music in the Park, Ribfest, and Hot Nite in the City –outside?

Image: New York Times

Then think of the wildfires of 2017 and 2018, when we huddled indoors, trying to escape the smoke that hung over Kamloops like a grey shroud seeping into every crevice of our homes.

I remember the wildfires of 2017. The skies were clear when I left Merritt after spending a few days camping nearby. I could see a wall of smoke as I approached Kamloops. When I entered it, my eyes began to water and my throat was irritated. Kamloops was right in the path of the Elephant Hill wildfire burning west of the city near Ashcroft. It was like a funnel directed by the prevailing winds right at Kamloops.

The Elephant Hill wildfire was the largest and most destructive wildfires in B.C.’s history. Then came the wildfires of 2018 which was even worse when an area 44 times that of Kamloops kilometres burned. There was no escaping the smoke that year. The province was blanketed with smoke.

The outlook for last year looked bad. Experts forecast more of the same because of a build-up of combustibles on the forest floor. But contrary to predictions, 2019 turned out to be wonderful.

Again this for this summer, the forecast appeared bad. Now I’m holding my breath, hoping the forecast is not true. Things look promising with long-range forecasts for the remainder of July being relatively cool and damp according to

And the Meteorological Service of Canada predicts the same:

“Summer is currently on hiatus it would seem. It will ‘return’ (was it ever here?) at some point in the future. Certainly today and looking into next week even, we are not seeing any signal, or sign that the weather will significantly change. Normally, by this time in the annual calendar, we would have seen one, perhaps two, dominant ridges of high pressure. This would have brought about long stretches of hot, dry weather (July 10, 2020.”

To lament the absence of a summer with hot, dry weather displays poor memory of what those tinder-dry conditions can bring. Cool, damp weather needs to be celebrated.

The isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic had us huddling indoors earlier in the spring but at least now we can go outdoors and enjoy nature’s beauty, albeit with physical isolation.

It would be unbearable if we were physically isolated by the pandemic and driven indoors by wildfire smoke.

Every week of relatively cool, damp weather is one week less of the potential wildfire season. Bring it on.

Kamloops has a reputation of delivering hot, dry summer days. That’s something I enjoy. But I would like to see Kamloops promoted as a place where you can safely breathe in the summer.

And next year, when the pandemic hopefully abates, my wish is that we can crowd together to and enjoy each other’s company in the smoke-free air as we did last year and with a bit of luck, this year as well.