Warm weather challenges farmers, firefighters

Record-high temperatures recorded Sunday and Monday; if hot weather continues, more water restrictions likely.

A youngster enjoys the Mill Lake water park during recent record-breaking hot weather.

A youngster enjoys the Mill Lake water park during recent record-breaking hot weather.

It’s still technically spring, but a sustained spell of summer weather in Abbotsford has seen records fall, crops ripen early and fires start in the tinder-dry conditions.

Single-day temperature records were broken twice this week in Abbotsford. On Sunday, the mercury hit 28.9 C, topping the day’s previous record of 28.2 C, and on Monday the temperature hit 28.7 C, beating the previous high of 27.8 C. The rest of the week was slightly cooler and saw no records set.

The hot days come after several weeks of an unseasonably warm and dry stretch.

Only 8.6 millimetres of rain fell on just four days during the entire month of May – which normally sees just under 100 millimetres during that same stretch.

Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald said he was “pretty confident” that total would be a record for Abbotsford which, like the rest of the Lower Mainland, often sees cool temperatures caused by a low-pressure system sitting over the coast.

Abbotsford topped May’s total on June 2, when 9.6 millimetres fell, but it has been dry ever since.

That has resulted in busier firefighters, who have been called to multiple grass and mulch blazes.

“The last week here it’s really started to pick up,” said Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service deputy chief Ron Hull.

He is urging residents and motorists to properly dispose of cigarettes and other smoking materials, which are frequently to blame for the small fires that take hold alongside roadways in summer.

Meanwhile, farmers have been dealing with the positives and negatives of a long period with minimal rain. Amir Maan of Maan Farms said the weather has sped up the growing season.

Above-average temperatures over the spring have resulted in a unique harvest in which strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are all ripening and being picked at the same time.

Usually, strawberry season is almost over by the time blueberries can be picked. This year, Maan said blueberry season started while strawberries are at their peak.

In addition, he said the warm, dry weather has increased the sugar content in the strawberries, resulting in a sweeter fruit.

The weather also has Maan expecting corn to reach maturity two weeks earlier than normal.

But the lack of water from above is posing a challenge to some, he said.

“In terms of the fields, it’s very dry,” he said. “If you don’t have irrigation, you’re suffering.”

Warm conditions and more rain than snow this winter left mountain snowpacks at a very low level heading into spring. Environment Canada says that may mean some communities face a water crunch over the summer.

The City of Abbotsford is currently in Stage 2 of its water shortage response plan, which allows residents to water lawns twice a week in the morning. The twice-weekly watering limits have been implemented during most recent summers, but staff are monitoring levels at Dickson Lake, and the city says that if hot weather continues, it may implement Stage 3 restrictions that ban all lawn-watering and the use of non-recirculating fountains.

The forecast calls for cooler temperatures and the possibility of showers next week, but there is no substantial rain on the horizon.