B.C. wildfires: a look at some of the big fires around the province - Macleans.ca

B.C. wildfires: a look at some of the big fires around the province

Wildfires in the central interior of British Columbia have forced thousands from their homes

Fire near Ashcroft, BC (Courtesy Jennifer Vance via Twitter)

Fire near Ashcroft, B.C. (Courtesy Jennifer Vance via Twitter)

CACHE CREEK (NEWS 1130) – A state of emergency has been declared for British Columbia, as more than 180 wildfires burn across the province and thousands of people are forced from their homes.

The Minister responsible for Emergency Management, Todd Stone, describes the situation as urgent and says the “extraordinary step” of declaring an emergency was necessary to co-ordinate the crisis response and ensure public safety.

Thousands of people in the Thompson-Nicola Regional district and the Cariboo region have been forced to evacuate their homes. Buildings near Cache Creek have been destroyed.

Kevin Skrepnek with the BC Wildfire Service says more than 180 fires are burning across BC.

“To illustrate just how busy yesterday was, 143 of those started just yesterday alone. So certainly we saw an extraordinary level of activity right across the province, but particularly in the central and southern Interior.”

He says many of the fires were started by lightning, but some are human-caused.

“Given the weather forecast we’re looking at, unfortunately we are expecting more of the same. Hot and dry conditions, certainly no significant rain, if rain at all across most of the province. And we expect wind is going to remain a concern.”

Contract firefighters from the forest industry are being brought in to help with the fire effort, and the BC Wildfire Service is looking at bringing in crews from other jurisdictions.

“We are only eight days into July, we still have a long summer ahead of us, especially if these conditions persist. That’s another reason why we’re looking at broader resources,” says Skrepnik.

The BC Wildfire Service rates the fire risk as high to extreme in much of the province and Environment Canada says daytime maximum temperatures will reach the mid to upper 30s in some regions through the weekend.

The last time the province declared a state of emergency was in 2003. That was also because of wildfires.

Some of the big fires around the region:

Cache Creek/Ashcroft
Estimated Size: 4,000+ hectares
Evacuation Alerts/Orders: Entire village of Cache Creek has been ordered to evacuate, as well as many properties in the surrounding areas. For more, click here.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has declared a local state of emergency and people still within the village of Cache Creek are being urged to leave immediately.

This incredibly fast-moving wildfire erupted from 50 to 700 hectares in just a few hours, and according to Chief Information officer Justine Hunse with the BC Wildfire Service, five buildings have already been destroyed.

“We have performed a tactical evacuation in the area. Firefighters have gone door to door. There are 48 BC Wildfire Service firefighters as well as aircraft and heavy equipment on site at this time.”

People are being told to go to an emergency social services reception centre in Kamloops as crews expect the blaze to grow substantially in the next several hours.

Both the Ashcroft and Cache Creek fire departments are also attending to the blaze in that area. BC Hydro is reporting, there are currently more than 2000 customers without power.

Crews currently have Highway 1 and Highway 97C blocked off near Ashcroft with no estimated time of reopening them.

100 Mile House – “Gustafsen Fire”
Estimated Size: 1,500 hectares
Evacuation Alerts/Orders: 3,000+ people have been told to evacuate. For more, click here.

The wildfire near 100 Mile House in the southern Cariboo region has been spreading fast, forcing a number of people out of their homes and putting more on evacuation alert.

As many as 3,000 homeowners have been told to evacuate their properties in central BC as the wind-fanned wildfire threatens their properties.

Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond says 1,800 properties previously under evacuation alert are now under orders to be cleared out.

“We have flaggers at the entrances to direct traffic, and we’ve also just extended the evacuation order to the far end of Lac la Hache to Wright Station Road on the west side… and put the town of Lac la Hache under an evacuation alert. We have about 2124 under order and about 607 under alert.We have about 2124 under order and about 607 under alert.”

Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek says it doesn’t look like the fire is going to let up anytime soon. “We are still seeing continued, and unfortunately, aggressive growth on the Gustafsen fire. Given the conditions we’re seeing out there, it sounds like there is potentially some wind in the forecast.”

Two reception centres have been set up at the curling rink in 100 Mile House and the Ramada hotel in Williams Lake.

On Saturday morning, an evacuation order was issued for the South Lakeside area at Williams Lake due to wildfire. The evacuation order for 150 Mile House has also been updated, and there is an evacuation order and alert for properties in the Little Fort area.

More fires/areas to watch
Affected area: Princeton
Estimated Size: 200 hectares
Evacuation Alerts/Orders: Wildfire north of Princeton has prompted the evacuation of 34 properties.

Drive BC has closed sections of several highways across the province because of forest fires. Updates on road closures can be found here.

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