The B.C. Wildfire Management’s fire danger rating dropped from extreme to high in the Merritt area over the weekend, but with fire season in full swing, the Kamloops Fire Centre is urging people to use caution.

The danger ratings range from one, a very low danger rating, to five, an extreme danger rating.

Kamloops Fire Centre Fire Information Officer Melissa Welsh said with the current dry conditions and little to no rain as of late, the fire ratings have climbed rapidly the last two weeks.

“It wasn’t that long ago that we were in a low to moderate, and now we’re in a high,” Welsh said.

The rating peaked last week at “extreme,” meaning potential fire fuels are dry and pose a serious risk of easily starting a fire and spreading quickly.

Welsh said given the dry, hot state of the Kamloops Fire Zone this time of year, people need to be careful with both campfires and items that could cause a spark.

She told the Herald Friday the Wildfire Branch expects some high-rated areas may move into the extreme fire danger rating as the branch anticipated an increase in wind.

As of Friday, most of the southern half of the province, including the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, had a high fire danger rating, according to the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch website.

So far in this fire season, there have been 114 fires burning just over 1,700 hectares of land within the Kamloops Fire Zone. Welsh said the average number of fires per year over the last 10 years is 265, burning a total of around 2,650 hectares each year.

“Given that number, we’re honestly just seeing fire season probably kicking off here,” she said.

Welsh said of the 114 fires so far this year, 90 of them were human-caused while 24 were stared by lightning.

She said it’s usually a 50-50 split by summer’s end as lightning is more common later in the summer, and it may still balance out this year’s numbers in terms of fire causes.

The Wildfire Management Branch began increasing its fire warden patrols this past weekend, monitoring people and campgrounds to ensure compliance with campfire regulations, Welsh said. They are also upping patrols in the backcountry and a campfire ban is being considered before the August long weekend.

The official start date to fire season is April 1.

The Kamloops Fire Zone stretches from the Canada-U.S. border to around Blue River in the north, and from Goldbridge in the west to around Lumby in the east.

Wildfire updates

Two human-caused wildfires burned a total of about 30 hectares of land in the Kamloops Fire Zone last week.

The B.C. Wildfire Management Branch responded to both fires, one on July 23 near Logan Lake and another on July 24 near Ashcroft.

The two fires were discovered and extinguished over the course of a few days.

Fire Information Officer Michaela Swan told the Herald the fire near Logan Lake was eight kilometres west of the town, near Bose Lake, and was reported at about 4 p.m. last Tuesday afternoon.

As of 10:30 a.m. the next day, the blaze was 100 per cent contained she said, with 40 firefighters, one helicopter and four pieces of heavy equipment on scene putting out hot spots from the extinguished fire. The fire did not threaten any structures, Swan said.

Crews worked through the night to extinguish the blaze and at the fire’s peak on Wednesday it was fought by three air tankers, 55 firefighters and three helicopters.

The blaze was an estimated 14 hectares in size, Swan said. One hectare is comparable to the size of two football fields.

It burned a slash pile and trees.

The day that fire was put out, another human-caused wildfire was reported to the Wildfire Management Branch at about 11 p.m.

Fire Information Officer Melissa Welsh said that one was 16 hectares in size and located about two kilometres southwest of Ashcroft on reserve land.

The Wildfire Management Branch continues to monitor that scene.