The Wentworth Creek fire. (BC Wildfire Service)

B.C. wildfire crews prepare for scorching August

Smoke is expectected to hit the previously untouched south coast this week

B.C. is on the cusp of a heat wave, officials say, with several new and aggressive wildfires reported over the past few days.

The south coast, which has largely escaped the negative effects of the wildfire season, is expected to be hit with smoke on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We have at least a month of this left, if not longer,” chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek told reporters on Monday. “August is historically one of our busiest times.”

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Skrepnek said potentially gusty winds are expected for the southern part of the province in the coming days. The southeastern portion can expect some dry lightning to ago along with it.

The province is fighting 149 wildfires as of July 31, he added. With 426,000 hectares burned since the start of the fire season, 2017 has shaped up as the third worst season since records began. Only 1958 and 1961 have exceeded it.

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Police are investigating Sunday’s Knox Mountain fire, believed to be human-caused. RCMP Sgt. Annie Linteau said reports have come of potential suspects and witnesses, but that the investigation is still in its early stages.

“It’s too early to say if this fire could be connected to any other fires in the area,” said Linteau.

One of B.C.’s most aggressive blazes continues to challenge firefighters, Skrepnek said. The Elephant Hill wildfire sits at 78,540 hectares burned, with more than 360 firefighters assigned to the half-contained blaze.

RELATED: “Things went fairly well overnight” on Elephant Hill fire

The wildfire that started on Sunday south of Canal Flats (between Invermere and Cranbook on Hwy. 95) isn’t threatening any homes yet, Skrepnek added, but a cell tower is at risk.

“It’s currently estimated at 150 hectares in size,” said Skrepnek, noting that it has likely grown beyond that now. “It’s generating so much smoke that we aren’t able to get an accurate picture.”

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