Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations - Wildfire Management Branch
Lightning is one of the major causes of wildfires starting about 50 percent of all forest fires in BC. Lightning-caused fires can destroy timber, cut forest products, equipment and structures, but are also a natural part of the ecosystem.
The Canadian Lightning Detection Network consists of a network of lightning locators that provide complete coverage of the province. The Wildfire Management Branch pays an annual fee for real-time access to the data. This network can detect more than 90% of all lightning strikes occurring in B.C.
To collect the data, the lightning locators continuously detect and record all cloud-to-ground lightning strikes as they occur. After triangulation, the data is sent to a large main-frame computer. All of this takes about 60 milliseconds. The information is then sent to Protection.
Once received by Protection headquarters, the latitude and longitude, time and polarity of the strike is moved into a database and is available for plotting on computer-generated maps. Forest Service personnel can then check lightning hot spots for new wildfires and allocate resources more effectively.
Lightning can strike almost anywhere (up to 15 kilometres from a storm cell) so may not be affected by rain. Dry lightning can also occur and is a potent ignition source because there is not enough moisture with the storm to interfere with ignition or fire spread.