Holdover fires and continued response in the Prince George Fire Centre

The BC Wildfire Service and Prince George Fire Centre are aware that some holdover fires from the 2023 season are now, in some areas, smouldering and producing visible smoke. This is expected on fires of considerable size or in areas experiencing ongoing drought conditions. The BC Wildfire Service is aware of ongoing activity and will determine appropriate courses of action as spring approaches.

A holdover fire is a fire that remains dormant and/or undetected for a considerable period of time after it starts. This is particularly common for lightning-caused fires, fires of considerable size, and fires that are in areas with dry Duff Moisture Codes (DMC) and Drought Codes (DC). The DMC and DC are indicators of the dryness of fuels in the duff layer, or approximately 7 cm deep and deeper.

It is possible for large fires to move deep underground and “slumber” undetected for a period of time. Heat can simmer underground for days, weeks, or even months. As the weather dries out and temperatures rise, these fires can flare up.

The BC Wildfire Service has protocols in place to patrol large fires when weather conditions could allow holdover fires to show themselves. Ground and air patrols may be conducted to look for smoke and/or heat. Ground patrols focus on identifying smoke plumes, and can be completed by staff from areas with good visibility of the area of concern. Air patrols also look for smoke plumes, but can use thermal imaging to locate heat signatures as well.

The map below shows fires that may still remain active within the Prince George Fire Centre.

BC Wildfire Service: Wildfire situation map
Refreshed every 15 minutes

Drought Conditions

The Drought Code is a numeric rating of the average moisture content of deep, compact organic layers. This code is part of the Fire Weather Index System and is a useful indicator of the effects of seasonal drought on forest fuels and the amount of smouldering that may occur in deep duff layers and within large logs.

In B.C., we also use a six-level drought classification to explain the severity and appropriate level of response to drought conditions. Maps of the drought level are available through the B.C. Drought Information Portal.

At the end of 2023, much of northeastern B.C. remained in Drought Levels 4 and 5, indicating that adverse impacts were likely and/or almost certain.

B.C. Drought Levels Map
Note: Drought updates have concluded for the 2023 season and will resume in spring 2024.

Snow Conditions and Water Supply Bulletin (BC Snow Basin Indices)

The River Forecast Centre analyzes snow pack, assesses seasonal water supply and flood risk, and predicts flows in B.C.’s rivers and streams. The Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletins provide an analysis of current snow conditions at automated snow weather stations and manual snow survey sites.

The February 1 Snow Survey reported that “the provincial snowpack remains very low, averaging 61% of normal across British Columbia.” While the survey also notes there are still 2-3 months left in the snow season and conditions may change slightly over this period, the current trends in low snowpack are expected to persist.

At this time last year, average snowpack across the province was 79% of normal. This year’s current totals are lower compared to 2023. This is due to dry and warm conditions experienced through the snow accumulation season; however, regional variation in snowpack can be expected.

The full report is available online.

River Forecast Centre: Map of Snow Basin Indices
Last update: February 8, 2024

Winter Response

Personnel are currently monitoring existing fires as conditions allow and are establishing response priorities. As additional resources return, appropriate actions will be taken when and where possible.

If you are in the vicinity of a holdover fire or other incident and have concerns, please contact the Prince George Fire Centre directly (contact information found below).

If you believe you have encountered a new wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, the BC Wildfire Service asks that you make a report by calling 1-800-663-5555 toll-free or *5555 from a cellphone. Or, report directly through the BC Wildfire Service mobile app.

Follow the latest wildfire news:

Contact us:

Prince George Fire Information Team
BC Wildfire Service | Ministry of Forests
Phone: 250-561-4629
Email: BCWS.PGFCInformationOfficer@gov.bc.ca

Connect with the Province of B.C. at www.gov.bc.ca/connect.