B.C. fire crews hope out-of-province support will aid battle against more than 180 active wildfires

·4 min read
The Sparks Lake fire, about an hour northwest of Kamloops, B.C., has put 163 homes on evacuation order and another 298 homes on evacuation alert. The fire is estimated to be covering 36,000 hectares as of Sunday afternoon. (Twitter/B.C. Wildfire Service - image credit)
The Sparks Lake fire, about an hour northwest of Kamloops, B.C., has put 163 homes on evacuation order and another 298 homes on evacuation alert. The fire is estimated to be covering 36,000 hectares as of Sunday afternoon. (Twitter/B.C. Wildfire Service - image credit)

After five days of hundreds of wildfires burning across the province, the B.C. Wildfire Service says it hopes the arrival of out-of-province support will help in battling the more than 180 active fires.

Over 100 out-of-province fire crews are coming to assist and will arrive in the province Monday, said Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations for the B.C. Wildfire Service, at a press conference Sunday.

"Those resources arrive tomorrow and from there they'll be dispersed into the interior, which is going to be a help for us with some of our firefighting resources," said Chapman.

Bill Blair, the federal minister of of public safety and emergency preparedness, also said in a pair of tweets Sunday that the Canadian Armed Forces will provide air support for areas affected by the wildfires until July 19.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says rain in the Prince George area Saturday night gave crews some reprieve, but more is needed to fight the continued threat of lightning and the hot, dry weather.

In Sunday's press conference, Chapman said 13 wildfires are being closely monitored, as they could potentially pose a threat to public safety. Additionally, there are fires burning near Lillooet, Cache Creek, 100 Mile House, Prince George and other smaller communities.

In the past 48 hours, Chapman says 81 new fires were detected. He says since April 1 of this year, they've responded to over 633 wildfires and over 830 square kilometres of area in the province has been burned.

According to the wildfire service, 56 per cent were human-caused fires, while 31 per cent resulted from lightning.

"Unfortunately, we are expecting another lightning event to move through areas of the southern interior," said B.C. provincial fire information officer Jean Strong, "and if we see that ... I would expect to see more ignitions."

Over the last 24 hours, Strong said wildfires continued to burn in the Kamloops, Prince George and Cariboo regions with the largest fire located 15 kilometres north of Kamloops Lake.

Hot, dry conditions are now coming to B.C. earlier in the season than what is historically normal, Strong said. "That big heat wave at the end of the month dried out those fuels about a month earlier [than usual]."

'Significant growth' overnight

Although rain helped dampen three significant wildfires, Strong said lightning is the suspected cause of three new wildfires overnight.

Meanwhile, despite efforts from firefighters near Kamloops, Strong said the Sparks Lake fire is continuing to grow.

Twitter/B.C. Wildfire Service
Twitter/B.C. Wildfire Service

"The Sparks Lake fire, which is our biggest fire we have at this moment, is estimated at 36,000 hectares ... and crews do remain working on that fire 24 hours a day," she said.

According to a written statement from the Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD), the fire also triggered an evacuation order for two properties located in the vicinity of Sparks Lake on Sunday and an evacuation alert for 119 properties in the Sabiston Lake area.

In Lytton, Strong said fire crews will continue to focus on the northeast and northwest side of the fire on Sunday. They were able to control the fire on the west side of the Fraser River by Saturday night.

WATCH | 2 confirmed dead in Lytton as wildfires continue to burn across B.C.:

There are four wildfires of note in the Cariboo region, Strong said; the two fires that are most concerning are north of Big Stick Lake and Churn Creek.

The Big Stick Lake fire is estimated at 70 hectares in size and residents nearby are being asked to prepare to leave at any moment's notice. According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, crews continued to build a fuel-free guard around the fire on Sunday.

An evacuation alert has also been issued for two properties near the Churn Creek fire, which is estimated at 700 hectares in size. Strong said crews will work on conducting a controlled burn on Sunday to help prevent further spread.

An evacuation order was put in place for the Si Lake area on Sunday, after a new fire was sparked by lightning earlier in the day.

And the community of Shackan Indian Band, near Merritt, B.C., notified its members of an evacuation alert on Sunday, telling residents to "get prepared to leave your home on short notice," the First Nation said.

Anyone placed under an evacuation order must leave the area immediately.

Evacuation centres have been set up in the following locations to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire:

  • Castlegar: Castlegar Community Complex, 2102 6th Ave.

  • Chilliwack: Chilliwack Senior Secondary, 46363 Yale Rd.

  • Kelowna: Salvation Army, 1480 Sutherland Ave.

  • Merritt: Merritt Civic Centre, 1950 Mamette Ave.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre. Those unable to access the online registration can call the Emergency Support Services registration at 1-800-585-9559.

Those looking for loved ones can contact the Canadian Red Cross for family reunification services at 1-800-863-6582.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting