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Holdover fires persisting through winter in Prince George Fire Centre

A holdover fire is a fire that remains dormant or undetected for a considerable time after it starts
An image from Coffee Creek wildfire on May 3 2023.

The BC Wildfire Service said it is monitoring holdover fires from the 2023 fire season, as in some areas they are smoldering and producing visible smoke.

This is expected on fires of considerable size or in areas experiencing ongoing drought conditions and BCWS says it will determine appropriate courses of action as spring approaches.

A holdover fire is a fire that remains dormant or undetected for a considerable time after it starts.

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 and, then 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 (via thermal imaging).

Ground patrols focus on smoke plumes and can be done by staff from areas with good visibility of the area of concern. Air patrols also look for smoke plumes but also use thermal imaging to locate heat signature.

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.

Snow pack has also remained a factor.  The February 1 Snow Survey reported that "the provincial snowpack remains very low, averaging 61 per cent of normal across British Columbia."

While the survey also notes that there are still two to three months left in the snow season, and that conditions may change slightly over this period, the current trends in low snowpack are expected to persist.

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

BCWS says 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.

For residents and/or travelers that are in the vicinity of a holdover fire (or other incident) and have additional concerns, the BC Wildfire Service asks that you make a report by calling 1-800-663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone, or directly through the BC Wildfire Service mobile app.