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BC Wildfire Service warns online fire maps may be inaccurate

Inaccurate online maps 'can cause a lot of confusion and anxiety'

Multiple monstrous fires continue to rage in B.C., causing smoky skies to sweep across the province.

As of Sunday morning, BC Wildfire Service crews are battling 247 fires that have burned more than 501,676 hectares. 

Fire information officer Jean Strong tells Glacier Media that the conditions are creating problems for accurate mapping of the fire perimeters.

"Unfortunately our crews have experienced really smoky conditions which makes it difficult to get our planes and helicopters in the air,” she says.

People living around the fires have expressed frustration over the lack of mapping that is available, but Strong says BC Wildfire Service also wants more mapping done. 

“We haven’t been able to map some of those fire perimeters as often we would like to,” she says. "As conditions and resources allow we are sending our crews up there to get those updated permitters and providing them to the public, it’s just not quite as often as we’d like at this point.”

Dry-lightning sparked more than five wildfires on Friday night in the coastal fire centre and more fire starts are expected through the weekend.

"Some more lightning is expected in different areas of the province, we are keeping an eye on it,” says Strong.

Precipitation will bring some relief to new fires sparked but fires are not slowing down.

"Unfortunately, we are still continuing to see that very intense fire behaviour and experience some growth on our bigger fires this weekend,” says Strong.

Flat Lake wildfire, burning southwest of 100 Mile House, is estimated at 45,526 hectares and saw significant growth in the last 24 hours. Strong says the Lytton Creek wildfire, 48,282 hectares, and the Tremont wildfire, 26,855 hectares, also grew substantially. 

White Rock Lake wildfire was aggressive overnight and also saw growth, estimated at 24,000 hectares as of Sunday. 

Strong says many people are turning to online tools to get information about the fires and warns it might not be accurate. 

“They can cause a lot of confusion and anxiety,” she says. 

Satellite images show heat and not necessarily where the wildfire boundaries are.

“Satellite images are certainly a great tool to have in your tool belt, I’ll refer to them myself, but ensuring people are using them with the understanding that that image is reflecting where the heat is not necessarily where the fire is,” she says.

The online tool could be showing you where the smoke in the area is or cut blocks. 

“It can paint an inaccurate picture,” says Strong. "When we have those perimeter maps, relying on those for your information rather than those satellite maps.”

More properties and people are on evacuation alert in the last 24 hours. Four new alerts have been issued with 1,027 properties and an additional 43 properties are on order.