More than 10,000 people are under evacuation orders as firefighters battle more than 231 wildfires covering 320 square kilometres in the B.C. Interior.
Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says 98 new fires broke out within the last 24 hours.
The B.C. Wildfire Service has an interactive map that lists all active fires in British Columbia. Included on the map — and represented by the large flames — are 17 fires of note that pose a potential threat to public safety.
The Canadian Press reported that 300 firefighters and support staff from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick were expected to start arriving Monday to help relieve the pressure on roughly 1,000 B.C. firefighters battling the blazes.
A provincewide state of emergency was declared on Friday after 140 new fires broke out, in part due to a significant lightning system that hit central B.C. About 100 new fires broke out on Saturday.
Kevin Skrepnek, chief information officer for the BC Wildfire Service, said gusty winds and hot, dry conditions are expected to continue for days.
“Unfortunately, in terms of the weather forecast, we’re not really seeing any reprieve in the immediate future,” he said.
SMOKE SEEN FROM SPACE
Environment Canada says smoke from B.C. wildfires is clouding satellite images of the province.
A special air quality statement has been issued for most of the B.C. interior. The Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Interior Health Authority, has issued a Smoky Skies Advisory for the Cariboo, Thompson, Shuswap, Okanagan, 100 Mile, Prince George, Similkameen, Fraser Canyon and Nicola regions.
Residents in those areas are advised to avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk. People who have trouble breathing are advised to stay inside.
CAMP FIRE BAN IS NOW PROVINCE-WIDE
Effective 8 a.m. Monday, all open fires (including campfires) are prohibited throughout British Columbia.
The Northwest Fire Centre was the final region to bring in the ban.
“This prohibition is being implemented due to current weather conditions and the volume of fires that the BC Wildfire Service is responding to in the province. More lightning is in the forecast and firefighting resources must focus on existing fires and new, naturally occurring fires,” B.C. Wildfire Services said in a release. “This prohibition will remain in effect until Oct. 21, 2017, or until the public is otherwise notified.”
The following activities are prohibited:
• Category 2 open fires
• Category 3 open fires
• Burning of any waste, slash or other materials
• Stubble or grass fires of any size over any area
• The use of stoves and other portable campfire apparatuses that are not CSA-approved or ULC-approved
• Fires burning woody debris in outdoor stoves
• Use of tiki torches, fireworks, firecrackers, sky lanterns, burning barrels or burning cages of any size or description
• Use of binary exploding targets (e.g. for rifle target practice)
This prohibition does not apply to cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes, or to a portable campfire apparatus that uses briquettes, liquid or gaseous fuel, so long as the height of the flame is less than 15 centimetres.
RED CROSS APPEALS FOR DONATIONS
The Red Cross is appealing for donations to help wildfire victim. The donations, which can be made online, will help provide immediate relief such as cots, blankets, family reunification and financial assistance for food, clothing and personal needs.
B.C. Liquor Stores will be collecting funds for the B.C. Fires Red Cross relief effort. Liquor store patrons can make donations of $2 or $5 — or multiples of either — by adding it to their order at the checkout counter.
KEEPING TRACK OF LOVED ONES
Interior Health has set up a call line for families whose loved ones have been relocated from health facilities due to wildfire activity in the Cariboo and Thompson-Nicola regions.
“Residential care and assisted living clients, and hospital patients, have been or are being moved from facilities in Ashcroft, 100 Mile House and Williams Lake. Given the sheer number of individuals needing to be moved to other communities, and in a short period of time, Interior Health has not been able to contact all families,” Interior Health said in a release.
The toll-free number is 1-877-442-2001. Inquiries can also be made by email at Patient.firstname.lastname@example.org.
B.C.’s LARGEST FIRES (as of 12:30 p.m. Monday)
Kamloops Fire Centre
Ashcroft Reserve: The interface fire near Ashcroft expanded to 6,100 hectares on Monday. A crew including 120 firefighters, eight helicopters, heavy equipment and support personnel are on site today. An evacuation order was issued on Thursday. Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta said a fire burning between Ashcroft and Cache Creek had destroyed dozens of buildings, including at least five houses, 30 trailer park homes and two hangars at a regional airport.
Thuya Lake Road: The fire near Little Fort is just 315 hectares in size but is threatening buildings and has forced an evacuation. “Difficult terrain is proving access difficult for heavy equipment in some areas. Smoke is thick is the surrounding area, hampering visibility to crews and aircraft,” the wildfire service notes.
Princeton: A fire burning north of Princeton has grown to an estimate 1,500 hectares. The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has issued an evacuation order for the area. A crew of 50 firefighters and two helicopters are fighting the blaze.
Dunn Lake: A pair of wildfires near Dunn Lake, 90 kilometres north of Kamloops, has spread to 1,300 hectares. The B.C. Wildfire Service says some structures are threatened by none have been destroyed. The Thompson Nicola Regional District has issued an evacuation order. The terrain in this area is very rocky and is providing challenging access for heavy equipment. Smoke is thick is the surrounding area, hampering visibility to crews and aircraft.
Cariboo Fire Centre
150 Mile House: Just south of Williams Lake, the 150 Mile House Fire is estimated to have spread to 2,500 hectares. The fire is listed as out of control — zero per cent contained — but the B.C. Wildfire Service says crews have had some success today in building containment lines on both the west and east flanks of the fire yesterday. The Cariboo Regional District has issued an evacuation order for affected areas.
Dragon Mountain: Approximately 25 kilometres southeast of Quesnel, the Dragon Mountain fire has grown to an estimated 1,500 hectares. The B.C. Wildfire service says crews are focussing on containing the fire and protecting critical infrastructure in the area.
Gustafsen: Just west of 100 Mile House, the Gustafsen wildfire is grown to 5,000 hectares. A wind shift Sunday evening caused a significant increase in fire behaviour that has resulted in the community of 100 Mile House being threatened. An evacuation order was put in place Sunday evening for the district of 100 Mile House. More than 100 firefighters as well as an Incident Management Team and support staff, helicopters, air tankers, and 30 pieces of heavy equipment will be on site today.
Hanceville: Fires are burning more than 10,000 hectares in the Hanceville area, located 60 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake. The B.C. Wildfire Service says this incident involves numerous fires over a large area of approximately 25 kilometres by 40 kilometres. The Cariboo Regional District has issued an evacuation order for affected areas.
Wildwood: The fire burning in the Wildwood area near the Williams Lake Airport has grown to 2,000 hectares. The fire is zero per cent contained by crews had success in anchoring the base of the fire into Highway 97 Sunday, meaning they are building containment lines to work from. The focus is on protecting Highway 97 and the community of Wildwood.
Soda Creek: The Soda Creek fire sparked up Saturday night 25 kilometres northwest of Williams Lake, is about 100 hectares in size and is threatening buildings.
Spokin Lake Road: Burning 20 kilometres east of Williams Lake, the Spokin lake fire is 300 hectares in size and is threatening buildings. This area is covered by one of several evacuation orders from the Cariboo Regional District.
Coastal Fire Centre
Harrison Lake: Currently the only active fire in the Coastal Fire Centre region, the 185-hectare Harrison Lake blaze has been burning since July 1 and is now listed at 40 per cent contained. An area restriction order and a forest service road closure has been issued to clear this area of recreationalists. No structures are currently threatened.
Prince George Fire Centre
2.5 km East of War Lake: 16 Firefighters and one helicopter are being used to battle this 55 hectare fire. Another 10 firefighters are en route. The fire is listed as out of control but 50 per cent contained.
5 W of Tatelkuz Lake: The B.C. Wildfire Service says this 950 hectare interface fire has burnt up the edge of private land. An evacuation alert has been issued by Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.