Residents in B.C.'s interior call for more wildfire updates as Canim Lake fire continues to grow

·4 min read
The Canim Lake fire is about 1,200 hectares in size and is out of control. Leanne Sallenback said she and other community members take boats onto the lake to monitoring the fire themselves. (Leanne Sallenback/Submitted - image credit)
The Canim Lake fire is about 1,200 hectares in size and is out of control. Leanne Sallenback said she and other community members take boats onto the lake to monitoring the fire themselves. (Leanne Sallenback/Submitted - image credit)

The owner of a resort on the southwest end of Canim Lake, near 100 Mile House in B.C.'s central Interior, says community members are concerned for their safety because they say updates from the B.C. Wildfire Service have been too few and far between.

"Our resort is actually situated right on the mountain under the fire. So we've been watching it come down ... and our main concern at this point ... is the lack of communication coming at us," Leanne Sallenback told CBC News.

According to the B.C. Wildfire Service dashboard, there are currently more than 200 active fires in the province and almost 70 new fires were sparked in the last two days. More than a dozen are being closely monitored as they could potentially pose a threat to public safety. They are called wildfires of note and their status is updated on the Wildfire Service's website about twice a day.

Sallenback said the lack of information on the Canim Lake fire has meant residents are monitoring the fire themselves.

"We need the information flowing," she said. "We need to know what is going on because there's so many sleepless nights and people can't just go out in their boat every other hour to look at what's going on."

She said she was concerned for the safety of her guests and asked them to leave about a week ago. An evacuation alert is in place in the area and residents need to be prepared to leave immediately.

On Saturday afternoon, homes on the southern shore of Canim Lake were also put on evacuation alert.

"We had sold out for the summer ... and I'm now on day five with nobody here and I don't know when I can invite them back. There's not really key messages given to local businesses."

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson said by the time residents get updates through the agency's website, the information is outdated.

"Those websites are generally updated twice a day at the moment and that's definitely an issue," said Doerkson. "Information is everything to these people, particularly when you're looking at a fire over the back window."

He said he understands the challenges facing the B.C. Wildfire Service, but says communication needs to be stepped up.

"Right now, residents there could be seeing that fire marching down again," he said, "and I get it on both sides, but it's very scary to watch with no information and I think we could do a better job of that.

More resources sent

As of Saturday, the Canim Lake fire is out of control and estimated at 1,250 hectares in size. According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, the majority of the growth has been to the southeast, away from the communities near the lake.

"The area is still under alert," the spokesperson Erin Bull, "There is still some growth in the northwest direction or down toward the lake and toward the properties, however it's much slower and the fire behaviour we're seeing is certainly less challenging in that direction."

She said the fire is located at the top of a steep hillside which is posing a challenge for fire crews trying to bring in heavy equipment, but more resources have been sent to the area.

Leanne Sallenback/Submitted
Leanne Sallenback/Submitted

"The terrain in that area is very difficult and there's not a ton of access," she said, "but firefighters ... have begun to put in a fire guard in the northeast flank, so that's between the fire and the community."

She said a meeting with community members and the agency was held on Friday evening to update residents on the status of the fire and the challenges crews are experiencing.

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

Evacuation centres have been set up throughout the province to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire. To find the centre closest to you, visit the Emergency Management BC website.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.

Emergency Management BC is requesting that those who know of a person who may have been in Lytton on June 30, 2021 and who cannot be accounted for, call or attend any RCMP Detachment to report that person missing.

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