Forest / Wild Fire in Canada on July 09 2017 02:57 AM (UTC).
Thousands of residents from Williams Lake, B.C., who hoped to be heading home soon after being displaced by wildfires nearly two weeks ago will have to be patient a while longer. Hot, dry weather in the foreseeable future for southern parts of the province prompted officials to say Wednesday that the wildfire crisis will likely get worse through the summer. Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said crews are still monitoring the situation around Williams Lake but because of weather conditions, the B.C. Wildfire Service is likely to recommend a delay in lifting the evacuation order. "We're definitely going to want to wait and see in terms of what these fires are going to do, how they're going to react to this weather," he said. Skrepnek added city staff in Williams Lake were expected to fly over the fires Wednesday as they worked to decide when to lift the order, and Cariboo Regional District Chairman Al Richmond said preparations for residents to return are ongoing. The current level of dryness in the forests is weeks ahead of where it should be and more fires are expected to start Wednesday and the days ahead, Skrepnek said. Crews are "gearing up" as lightning and little to no precipitation creates "ideal conditions for fires to start and fires to spread quite quickly," Skrepnek said. There are still approximately 19,100 people displaced, and Robert Turner of Emergency Management BC said more support is coming for Kamloops and Prince George, the communities that have helped most of those residents forced out of their homes. "The commitment and dedication of these people has seen some truly heroic efforts and I think we're finding now with the situation going on for so long that a lot of them are getting tired," Turner said, adding the relentless fire conditions are also taking a toll on fire crews and volunteers. He said the province is working with local governments to ensure any additional support needed, including human resources, will be made available as people remain out of their homes. For the first time in days, a new evacuation order was issued by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District late Tuesday night for residents on a handful of properties northeast of Clinton, about 350 kilometres north of Vancouver. The 615-square kilometre wildfire has been threatening the region for nearly three weeks and already destroyed dozens of homes from Ashcroft north to Loon Lake, east of Clinton. RCMP announced Wednesday that a wildfire that raced through a Lake Country neighbourhood in the Okanagan and destroyed eight homes was arson. Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said police want to speak with a group of adults who were using the recreational area near where the fire started on July 15 and are also encouraging anyone with photos or video footage to contact police. He said several residents suffered substantial financial and emotional damage and it was lucky that no one was injured or killed by the fast-moving flames. Fires have charred about 3,790 square kilometres of timber, bush and grassland in B.C., since April 1, and crews are continuing to try to bring more than 150 wildfires under control.
British Columbia may ask for more help if its wildfires worsen, the western Canadian province said on Friday after the federal government sent 225 additional soldiers to battle blazes that have been spreading rapidly in hot, dry weather. While rain is expected over the weekend, many parts that are burning are expected to miss it entirely, and winds in some parts could escalate the blazes, fire information officer Navi Saini said on a conference call. "We also are in ongoing discussions with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre," she said. "We do have the option of requesting more resources." In total, there are now 375 Canadian soldiers along with 3,600 firefighters and emergency responders tackling the flames, which have forced around 45,000 people to evacuate their homes over the past two weeks. Nearly 170 wildfires are blazing across the heavily forested province, affecting 405,000 hectares and prompting the provincial government to declare a state of emergency. The province has spent C$117.9 million ($94.05 million) tackling the fires, whose numbers on Friday included 32 new ones since Thursday, Saini said. Federal government ministers promised to send more help as the situation unfolds. "We are committed to providing a coordinated federal response to the people of British Columbia," Canada's public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, said in a statement. Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman Annie Linteau said an advance team from the military has been working with local authorities for the last 36 hours. "Our Canadian forces colleagues will be joining us, the RCMP and other police personnel, at various checkpoints ... by tomorrow morning," she said. Linteau said at least one fire, which has destroyed buildings, may have been human-caused, and that investigators are probing the issue. British Columbia declared its first state of emergency since 2003 on July 7 as gusty winds fanned fires that were caused by lightning and humans in the tinder-dry central and southern regions. The fires have shut mines and timber operations and damaged homes and electrical infrastructure. Major pipeline companies in the region, including Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd, a unit of Kinder Morgan Inc, have created fire breaks, installed sprinklers and taken other measures to protect operations. On Thursday, a low pressure system tracked across British Columbia, bringing heavy showers and cooler temperatures, although emergency officials said the rain was sporadic and only fell in certain areas.
British Columbia is extending a state of emergency for two more weeks as wildfires sweeping across the province's interior show no sign of slowing. Premier John Horgan said Wednesday that his government's first priority is to support the more than 45,000 people displaced by the fires, which have so far torched more than 1,235 square miles (3,200 square kilometers) of land. The state of emergency was set to expire Friday, and Horgan said he regrets having to extend it. "This is unprecedented," he said. "Traditionally, when an emergency is declared, people are usually back in their homes within the two-week period. That may not be the case for many individuals." Some people are still out of their homes because of flooding earlier this year, he said. Calmer winds have allowed firefighters to build guards around scores of wildfires currently threatening communities in central and southern British Columbia, said chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek. He said the number of active fires is decreasing. The wildfire service said Wednesday that 155 fires are currently burning and 15 of those are threatening communities. Fire information officer Navi Saini said a person was injured while driving in an evacuated area west of Williams Lake. She said the person inside the vehicle had been in the area in an attempt to fight the fire. Officials said Wednesday that a fire that destroyed eight homes north of Kelowna is 100 percent contained and residents of 58 properties in Lake Country can immediately return home, although an evacuation alert remains in place. A cause of that fire is still under investigation. Residents of Cache Creek, which has a population of about 1,000, returned home Tuesday following a lengthy evacuation and Al Richmond, chairman of the Cariboo Regional District, said officials are co-ordinating re-entry plans for 100 Mile House and Williams Lake. "We're in the middle of summer, so hot spots are going to exist and it's likely that those people when they come home could still be, particularly in the rural areas, on a state of alert for some time," Richmond said. An air quality advisory that had been in effect for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District was ended on Wednesday, after stronger winds improved the situation.
Mounties are asking for the public's help in finding a missing elderly resident of a British Columbia community that has been evacuated due to wildfires. Prince George RCMP say 88-year-old Maria Martha Watt has not been seen in over a week and has not spoken with loved ones in 10 days. Officers have checked her home as well as evacuation centres in Prince George and Kamloops, and it's believed she never registered as an evacuee. RCMP say a description of Watt and her vehicle have been provided to police at wildfire check points and detachments throughout the B.C. Interior. Watt is described as Caucasian, five feet three inches, 145 pounds with hazel eyes and brown hair. Officials in 100 Mile House are considering allowing residents to return home but say they must first assess the integrity of infrastructure and utilities.
Currently about 2,900 firefighters and 203 aircraft are involved in a fire extinguishing operation, while the country's authorities have already spend over $80 million to fight the natural cataclysm, the CBC broadcaster reported Sunday, citing Canadian Minister of Forests John Rustad. Rustad added that one helicopter crashed during the operation, the pilot was injured. A total of 178 fires are currently active in British Columbia, while some 131,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed by fire in 2017, Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said, according to the broadcaster.
Continued dry and windy conditions in British Columbia are worsening the province's ongoing wildfire crisis, with new evacuation orders issued on Sunday. An evacuation order was issued for all of Williams Lake, a town of 10,000 people, at 6 p.m. PDT, meaning residents must leave the city, with Highway 97 the recommended evacuation route. The ridge of high pressure that has kept conditions hot and dry across southern B.C. is giving way to a cold front - a temperature drop that may have otherwise been welcome, if not for the winds accompanying it. Special weather statements were issued for much of B.C.'s Southern Interior ahead of a gusty weekend, with widespread winds between 20 and 50 kilometres per hour starting Saturday afternoon over the central and southern Interior. Along with a temperature drop of 6 to 8 C on Sunday, the cold front will bring rain with it; however, showers can only be expected north of the Cariboo region, avoiding the areas that need wet weather most. "There is also the risk of lightning over the central and northern Interior as well as over the Kootenays and Columbias," Environment Canada's special weather statement reads for Cariboo. "Unfortunately, significant rain continues to elude the southern half of the province for the foreseeable future." Prior to the evacuation order in Williams Lake, at least 16,000 people had been displaced across B.C. due to widespread evacuation orders. BC Wildfire Service has flagged dozens of "wildfires of note," which are fires that currently pose a potential threat to public safety. More than 120 wildfires larger than 0.01 hectares were burning in the province at last count. BC Wildfire Service tells Environment Canada that the forecasted weather is capable of challenging efforts to contain the several large wildfires burning across southern B.C., while also possibly causing the growth of a number of fires.
Wildfires continue to blaze across the province with dozens of communities under evacuation orders or alerts. About 14,000 people have been forced from their homes according to the latest numbers from the B.C. Wildfire Service. A province-wide state of emergency remains in place due to around 218 wildfires burning across B.C., equating to almost 35,000 hectares being torched. "It's certainly been an extraordinarily busy period over the last few days," said Kevin Skrepnek, chief fire information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service. More than 100 fires started on Friday, along with almost 100 new fires on Saturday and 29 new blazes on Sunday. "A number of those are interface fires that have led to evacuations, both evacuation alerts and orders," said Skrepnek. "And unfortunately, as we've been seeing with the weather forecast that's developing, not a lot of relief expected for the next three to five days." Crews will be monitoring wind conditions closely as they can change quickly and pose new threats for the firefighters on scene. Some lightning is expected in southeastern B.C. on Monday but it should also come with rain, which could bring some relief. 100 Mile House was one of the communities evacuated on Sunday night, and Skrepnek said this was done out of an "abundance of caution" due to shifting winds. He said he was not aware of any structures lost in the community overnight. A wildfire near Ashcroft remains at 6,150 hectares Monday. Skrepnek said there is a lot of smoke coming from that fire and evacuation orders and alerts remain in place. "With a fire of this size it always has the potential to change direction on us," he added. Near Williams Lake, numerous large wildfires are zero per cent contained. "[We are] still monitoring all the fires around the Williams Lake area and understanding where the resources are and get a good idea of what we're dealing with," said Noelle Kekula, fire information officer for the Central Cariboo complex. "We've got contract crews and lots of locals with heavy equipment working the containment lines." "Our number one priority is property and structures," Kekula said. "We've got numerous properties around the Williams Lake area. Other priorities are hydro lines, fibre optic lines, making sure people are connected with the outside world... and keeping the highways open for the evacuees." A 2,000-hectare fire burning north of Princeton Monday remains zero per cent contained. A mandatory evacuation order area has now been expanded to 301 total homes. The order includes Highway 5A between Cedar Creek Road and Dry Lake. It now includes all of Summer Creek Road and Missezula Lake. Anyone at nearby recreation sites are advised to leave immediately. The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen issued an Evacuation Order for 49 more homes along Princeton Summerland Road north of Princeton on Monday at 5 p.m. The homes were previously under an Evacuation Alert. Skrepnek said about $47 million has been spent so far on fighting the wildfires, but that number is from Friday and will have gone up after the extensive fire activity over the weekend. "To have this number of fires burning, it's not unprecedented," added Skrepnek. "Typically in the summer, it's not unusual to have a few hundred fires, active fires, at once. What has made this unusual is the aggressiveness of these fires, the speed with which they grew on Friday and just the fact that they're so close to communities as well. That's just really set the stage for where we're at now in terms of how many impacts these incidents are having to the public."
Hundreds of people in B.C. are being affected by new evacuation alerts Sunday as more than 200 wildfires continue to burn across the province. On Sunday, the B.C. Wildfire Service said 97 new fires started on Saturday - bringing the provincial total to 230 as of 8:45 a.m. PT. Chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek said, other than that, he was unaware of any major changes to fires overnight. Many communities forced to evacuate are in the Interior and Cariboo regions, from Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Princeton and the 100 Mile House area. On Saturday night, the communities of Scottie Creek and Hihium Lake (around 60 kilometres from Cache Creek), as well as Alexis Creek (around 114 kilometres west of Williams Lake) were also ordered to evacuate. Those orders affect more than 600 people, adding to the more than 7,000 who left their homes earlier in the weekend. The province also announced Saturday night that Wells Gray Provincial Park would be closed as a precaution until further notice. The B.C. Wildfire Service and BC Parks said anyone currently within park grounds needs to leave the area immediately. Officials will be restricting access to the park as of 8:00 a.m. PT. Around a dozen wildfires of concern were listed Sunday morning, burning through more than 15,500 hectares of land and and threatening buildings in the Interior and Cariboo. The B.C. Wildfire Service said hot and dry weather across most of the province in recent weeks set the stage for wildfires, but there were other unexpected factors that caused problems too. "What we didn't see coming was the extent of wind we had yesterday ... and also a significant amount of dry lightning," said chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek. "We are in this for the long haul at this point." Temperatures in the Interior are expected to stay above 30 C through the weekend and it will be much the same in the Cariboo. Lightning and high winds are expected to continue. Nearly 2,000 B.C. firefighters battled fires across the province Saturday. John Rustad, B.C.'s minister of forests, lands and natural resources operations, said 260 firefighters from across Canada are due to arrive in the province early this week. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said his province was sending three aircraft and 30 firefighters. Police as well as search and rescue teams from the Vancouver area are headed to the region to help, and B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Morris said the military may be called in. The Canadian Red Cross is accepting donations to provide financial assistance, family reunification services, as well as cots and bedding for those forced out of their homes. A state of emergency remains in effect for all of B.C., giving the government special authority to respond to the fires. There hasn't been such a state province-wide since 2,500 fires broke out in the summer of 2003. More than 140 new fires broke out across B.C. on Friday alone. Many were caused by lightning, but the wildfire service said a good number were also sparked by people. Officials said Saturday some of the most serious fires were expected to get worse before they get better. One of the biggest fires is burning near the village of Ashcroft, about 120 kilometres west of Kamloops. As of Saturday night, that blaze was estimated at 4,200 hectares in size. Another wildfire near Princeton is estimated to be around 1,500 hectares in size, having grown 10-fold over the course of a day.