Warm and dry conditions in the Peace region have prompted early seeding this year, but the lack of moisture has fuelled wildfire risk in the area.
“It’s been very dry. We went into the winter with the driest soil conditions I’ve ever seen,” says grain producer Dave Wuthrich of PW Farms in Flatrock, a half-hour drive east of Fort St. John. “We’re used to seeding into mud. And it is so dry that I seeded through slough holes that I have never seeded before in my life.”
He’s also seeding through smoke from the Boundary Lake fire east of town on the Alberta border. On May 7, his family was on an evacuation alert. Boundary Lake is one of 56 fires currently burning across BC.
“Where our farm is situated, it’s pretty safe,” Wuthrich says. “We’re surrounded by a big field and lots of cultivated land, but you want to stick around and help the neighbours fight their fires if they do have issues.”
Wuthrich started seeding April 30, which is the earliest he’s ever started the growing season. This year he’s planting wheat, barley, canola, fescue and timothy.
“There was very little runoff this spring so what little snow we did have did soak in,” he says. “There still is some soil moisture there but now we’re going like idiots to try and get it sealed off because it’s been very hot and windy.”
Tom de Waal of Harvest Angus in Prince George usually doesn’t start planting until May 15. This year, conditions mean he anticipates being wrapped up by then.
While the warm weather is driving up wildfire risk in some areas, it’s causing flooding in other parts of the province.
While the flooding situation has stabilized, the Thompson sub-basin remains under a flood warning and the Middle Fraser and South Thompson sub-basins are under flood watches.
Rising temperatures later this week could prompt the rapid melt of high-elevation snow and deliver runoff to the larger rivers, says head of the BC River Forecast Centre Dave Campbell.
Out of an abundance of caution, the province closed Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet on the night of May 9 due to the potential for slides.