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B.C. wildfires update for Aug. 23: 246 active fires, nearly 4,000 properties evacuated | Cooler weather offering relief

Vancouver Sun logo Vancouver Sun 2021-08-23 Scott Brown , Tiffany Crawford , Cheryl Chan , David Carrigg , Mike Raptis
a body of water with a city in the background: Fire burns within metres of the Coquihalla Highway on Sunday. Photo by BC Ministry of Transportation © Provided by Vancouver Sun Fire burns within metres of the Coquihalla Highway on Sunday. Photo by BC Ministry of Transportation
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B.C.’s 2021 wildfire season began officially when the George Road fire seven kilometres south of Lytton was reported on June 17. Three weeks later the Village of Lytton was destroyed by an unrelated blaze and there were 100 active fires.

This post will provide updated and breaking news information on B.C.’s wildfire situation.

Latest updates on fire activity in British Columbia: bcwildfire.ca Current wildfire travel advisories: tranbc.ca Info for residents/evacuees impacted by wildfires: www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca

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B.C. Wildfires Map 2021: Updates on fire locations, evacuation alerts/orders

LATEST NEWS ON B.C. WILDFIRES

Monday, Aug. 23

Number of wildfires burning in B.C. down slightly from a week ago

The B.C. Wildfire Service says nearly 250 blazes are burning across the province, down from nearly 270 a week ago.

It says more than 8,600 square kilometres of land has been scorched this year from wildfires since the season began April 1.

More than 80 fires are burning in the Kamloops region, about 60 in the southeast and at least 50 in the Prince George fire centres.

More than 60 evacuation orders are in place across British Columbia, and there are nearly 120 evacuation alerts, which means people should be ready to leave within minutes.

The White Rock Lake wildfire, which caused significant damage to at least 70 properties in the Ewings Landing and Killiney areas along the northwest shore of Okanagan Lake, remains classified as “out-of-control” and is estimated at about 807 square kilometres.

 — The Canadian Press

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Here’s the latest from the B.C. Wildfire Service

Fires: 

  • Wildfires currently burning in B.C.: 246
  • Since April 1, 2021: 1,539 wildfires
  • 862,992 hectares of area burned

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 26
  • Coastal: 18
  • Kamloops: 81
  • Northwest: 5
  • Prince George: 53
  • Southeast: 63

Resources:

  • Total firefighters and other personnel currently fighting the fires: 3,409
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 514
  • Contractors: 1,141
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 188
 

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 63 (-1)
  • Evacuation alerts: 117 (+2)

Properties:

  • Number of properties on order: 3,978 (-9)
  • Number of properties on alert: 14,291 (+6)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 2 orders, 1 alert
  • Northwest: 1 order, 1 alert
  • Northeast: 1 order, 9 alerts
  • Central: 53 (-1) orders, 93 (+2) alerts
  • Southeast: 1 order, 7 alerts
  • Southwest: 5 orders, 4 alerts
 

Why is an Island-based water bomber sidelined as B.C. burns?

VICTORIA — The Martin Mars water bomber sits idle on the shores of Sproat Lake, raising questions about why the massive aircraft isn’t being used to fight the flames ripping though the province — including in its own backyard.

The short answer, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service, is the Martin Mars “is a retired aircraft that hasn’t been used in B.C. since 2015,” said spokeswoman Jean Strong.

The service is contracting a fleet of smaller fixed-wing tankers and helicopters that can target fires quickly and efficiently, she said.

Wayne Coulson, chief executive of the Coulson Group of Companies and owner of the Martin Mars tanker, disagrees with the strategy. He flew over the Mount Hayes fire near Ladysmith this week on his way home from California, where his company’s aviation division is fighting fires on several fronts.

He said a few dumps from a tanker like the Martin Mars would have “a huge effect on that fire.”

The B.C. Wildfire Service should be using “every tool in the tool box” during the wildfire season, he said, and that includes large tankers like the Martin Mars and Coulson’s converted Boeing 737s.

— Victoria Times Colonist

Sunday, Aug. 22

Rain, cooler temperatures offer slight relief in B.C. wildfire fight

Cooler conditions have helped firefighters make some progress against the White Rock Lake wildfire in British Columbia’s Interior.

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations says although conditions improved over the past two days, firefighters still have their hands full battling the blaze.

Cooler temperatures, calmer winds and some light rain have allowed officials to downgrade several evacuation orders across the province, but the agency says conditions remain “very dry” near Kelowna, B.C.

Alex Van Bruksvoort, the fire chief for North Westside Fire Rescue, says he and the service know residents want to return home but are asking them to wait until conditions are safer.

The BC Wildfire Service says about 250 blazes are still burning across the province.

The Ministry of Forests says nearly 8,600 square kilometres have been burned by wildfires since the start of the fire season, and there are more than 3,600 firefighters battling blazes across the province.

The evacuation order for more than 1,300 properties and alert for 850 properties remains in place for those affected by the White Rock Lake fire.

“We understand the stress involved with the uncertainty that this fire is providing and will provide more detailed information as soon as it is available for the 1,300 evacuated properties,” said Doug Gilchrist, a director with Central Okanagan Emergency Operations, in a statement.

The Mount Law wildfire, also in the Interior, continues to burn out of control and officials say crews will continue suppression efforts.

– The Canadian Press

Parts of Ladysmith wildfire contained

Additional firefighters, heavy equipment and aircraft were being added to the stubborn Mount Hayes wildfire near Ladysmith on Saturday.

Officials say the fire was contained to 70 hectares overnight as crews used excavators and logging equipment to establish “fire-breaking control lines” on the eastern slope of the mountain.

The wildfire, which is in steep terrain, continued to fill the area with heavy smoke throughout the day, and a state of emergency remained in effect for the region.

In an update late Saturday afternoon, the B.C. Wildfire ­Service said “significant portions of the fire have burned to control lines and are now contained.”

With the arrival of additional firefighters, crews were pushing control lines and laying hose into challenging terrain on the northeast flank of the fire.

Officials rated the status of the blaze late Saturday as “a low vigour surface fire with open flames, but no organized flame front.”

The Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo regional districts issued an evacuation alert ­Friday for 20 properties on Takal, David and Ivy roads, with residents on standby to leave their homes at a moment’s notice.

The Bush Creek Fish Hatchery and a liquefied natural gas storage facility operated by Fortis B.C. have already been evacuated, but are being staffed with essential personnel to maintain operations.

The fire does not pose an immediate threat to the Fortis B.C. facility, the B.C. Wildfire Service said.

– Victoria Times-Colonist

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Here’s the latest from the B.C. Wildfire Service

Fires: 

  • Wildfires currently burning in B.C.: 246
  • Since April 1, 2021: 1,536 wildfires
  • 860,801 hectares of area burned

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 27
  • Coastal: 18
  • Kamloops: 81
  • Northwest: 5
  • Prince George: 53
  • Southeast: 62
  • Resources:

Resources:

  • Firefighters and other personnel currently fighting the fires: 3,573
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 541
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 195

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 64 (-4)
  • Evacuation alerts: 115 (-7)

Properties:

  •  Number of properties on order: 3,987 (-34)
  • Number of properties on alert: 14,285 (-3,758)
  • Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:
  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 2 orders 1 alerts
  • Northwest: 1 orders 1 alert
  • Northeast: 1 order 9 alerts
  • Central: 54 (-4) orders 93 (-7) alerts
  • Southeast: 1 order 7 alerts
  • Southwest: 5 orders 4 alerts

Saturday, Aug. 21

Merritt residents no longer on evacuation alert

The city of Merritt has rescinded an evacuation alert.

“Following favourable weather conditions and the work of the BC Wildfire Service, the July Mountain and Lytton Creek fires no longer pose an imminent risk to the safety of Merritt residents,” said a statement from the city, issued at noon Saturday.

“The City of Merritt Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will continue to monitor the situation and should conditions change, an Evacuation Alert/Order could be reinstated or issued as the EOC deems necessary.”

Merritt’s 7,100 residents have been under an evacuation alert since Sunday.

Cooler temperatures offer slight relief for B.C. wildfire crews

Several evacuation orders have been downgraded as cooler temperatures and lighter winds offer a breather to wildfire crews in British Columbia.

The BC Wildfire Service says there are 250 wildfires burning across the province, but seven evacuation orders have been lifted.

The Kamloops region continues to see the majority of blazes, with the White Rock Lake fire continuing to burn out of control.

But some progress has been made against new fires, such as the first significant blaze of the season on Vancouver Island.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District declared a state of local emergency covering an area west of Ladysmith after a fire was sparked Thursday, but says the fire has been contained as of Friday night.

Evacuation orders and alerts are posted for many of the province’s 30 highly visible or potentially life-threatening wildfires, but Environment Canada is calling for clouds, showers and daytime temperatures down to the mid-teens over the weekend in some areas of the southern Interior.

Evacuation orders were downgraded to an alert Friday for more than 650 homes in the Lower Nicola area, west of Merritt.

Residents were forced to leave their homes five days ago due to the Lytton Creek wildfire.

The nearby city of Merritt remains on an evacuation alert.

The Ministry of Forests says nearly 8,600 square kilometres has been burned by wildfires since the start of the fire season, and there are more than 3,600 firefighters battling blazes across the province.

The Canadian Press

Evacuation orders rescinded for some

Central Okanagan Emergency Operations has downgraded an evacuation order to an evacuation alert for eight West Kelowna properties on Gates Road, from 3658 to 3760 Gates Road.

“Favourable weather has helped the efforts of crews fighting the Mount Law wildfire,” they said.

“Residents returning to their properties are reminded that they may encounter various hazards as a result of the forest fire. As active fire suppression work continues throughout the area of the fire, please stay out of the way of emergency vehicles and crews. Do not block access to streets or properties.”

Jason Brolund, Fire Chief of West Kelowna Fire Rescue said B.C. wildfire crews are fighting the blaze in five areas on the hillsides with both air and ground crews.

“Firefighting efforts are being supported by 33 structural firefighters from six fire departments (West Kelowna, Sundre Alberta, Woss Lake, Pt. McNeill, North Cowichan, Willowbrook) along with 10 trucks and other equipment.”

   

STATS on B.C.’s wildfires

As of 7 p.m. Friday, this is what the wildfire situation in B.C. looks like.

* Wildfires currently burning in B.C.: 250

* Since April 1, 2021:

* 1,533 wildfires

* 859,196 hectares of area burned

* Active fires by fire centre:

* Cariboo: 28

* Coastal: 18

* Kamloops: 81

* Northwest: 5

* Prince George: 53

* Southeast: 65

Resources:

* Firefighters and other personnel currently fighting the fires: 3,631

* Out-of-province firefighters: 533

* Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 202

Evacuations:

* Evacuation orders: 68 (-7)

* Evacuation alerts: 122 (+4)

* Properties:

* Number of properties on order: 4,021 (-930)

* Number of properties on alert: 18,043 (-1,610)

* Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

* Vancouver Island Central Coast: 2 (+2) orders 1 (+1) alerts

* Northwest: 1 order 1 alert

* Northeast: 1 order 9 alerts

* Central: 58 (-9) orders 100 (+3) alerts

* Southeast: 1 orders 7 alerts

* Southwest: 5 orders 4 alerts

Friday, Aug. 20

First significant wildfire on Vancouver Island raises concerns

A cooler, showery weekend is forecast for most of British Columbia, potentially offering a breather to exhausted crews battling more than 250 active wildfires in all corners of the province.

Those include the first significant fire of the season on Vancouver Island, where the Cowichan Valley Regional District has declared a state of local emergency covering an area west of Ladysmith after a fire was sparked yesterday.

No homes are threatened by the estimated 20-hectare blaze, but an evacuation order has been posted for some natural gas infrastructure operated by FortisBC in a rural area northwest of the town.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says an initial attack crew of 10 people and several aircraft were working with firefighters from numerous local fire departments and more resources are expected to be assigned.

The fire danger on much of Vancouver Island and parts of the Coastal Fire Centre is ranked at high to extreme, similar to ratings in portions of B.C.’s five other fire centres.

 — The Canadian Press

Merritt wildfire evacuation fears eased but community remains on alert to leave at short notice

Merritt and its 7,100 residents remain on edge under an evacuation alert issued Sunday that hadn’t been lifted as of Thursday, despite more favourable weather conditions over fires around the community.

The notorious Lytton Creek fire to the northwest of town remains Merritt’s biggest threat; it has burned through 843 square kilometres and is classified as out of control by the B.C. Wildfire Service as of Thursday afternoon.

Warmer and drier weather caused a slight increase in fire activity Thursday, according to the fire service’s latest bulletin, but there was “no significant growth” to any of the four fires that make up the overall fire complex.

And reopening of the Coquihalla Highway south of Merritt on Tuesday, after a closure due to the July Mountain and Brooks Creek fires burning on either side of the road, has eased some evacuation concerns in the community, said Ken Gillis, chairman of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

Still, residents are advised to have “go bags” packed, make sure vehicles are fuelled, and have plans ready to care for livestock and other animals in the semi-rural community, said Greg Lowis, public information officer for Merritt’s emergency operations centre.

The atmosphere around Merritt was smokier Thursday than it was Wednesday, Lowis said, when the more favourable weather briefly brought blue skies, he said.

Firefighters are “making good progress” on the Lytton Creek fire, said Todd Nessman, manager of fire operations for the wildfire service, “but I’m not able to give you a clear answer on (when evacuation notices will be lifted) at this point.”

Still, residents are advised to have “go bags” packed, make sure vehicles are fuelled, and have plans ready to care for livestock and other animals in the semi-rural community, said Greg Lowis, public information officer for Merritt’s emergency operations centre.

— Derrick Penner

‘Money is not the issue,’ says B.C. minister as fatigue catches up with firefighters

Wildfire crews are facing fatigue in British Columbia as the busy season wears on, causing concern for their safety, says an operations manager.

Officials are seeing “more slips, trips, falls” and “other serious occurrences,” Todd Nessman, the B.C. Wildfire Service operations manager, told a news conference Thursday.

“It’s something that we take seriously and we want to monitor and make sure our staff are safe,” he said.

There are more than 3,800 firefighters from B.C. and over 500 from out of province helping fight the wildfires.

Nessman called it a “hard” and “difficult” season with at least a month left to go and hot and dry weather conditions making things tougher.

Data from the Ministry of Forests and Emergency Management BC shows about 290 wildfires were burning in the province and more than 8,500 square kilometres of land has been lost since the start of the fire season on April 1.

Nessman said officials are keeping an eye out for staff who need more help or additional time off. He said they would also be losing some crew members as soon as they head back to post-secondary institutions.

Recent weather in parts of B.C. has helped the firefighting efforts with cooler conditions and a chance of showers through Sunday. But temperatures are set to rise over much of southern B.C. next week, while the fire danger map shows the risk in the Kamloops fire centre has returned to moderate from low after last week’s rain.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the B.C. government is sparing no expense when it comes to fighting wildfires.

The B.C. government earmarked $136 million for this year’s wildfire season, which is the same amount as 2020, says a news release from the Ministry of Forests.

Data from the B.C. Wildfire Service website shows the government spent about $193 million last year to fight wildfires. But the 2017 wildfire season cost nearly $650 million and the government spent about $615 million in 2018, a news release says.

“We spend what we have to spend,” Farnworth said. “Money is not the issue.”

— The Canadian Press

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Here’s the latest from the B.C. Wildfire Service

Fires (since April 1, 2021):

1,530 wildfires

858,292 hectares of area burned

Currently burning: 254

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 30
  • Coastal: 19
  • Kamloops: 82
  • Northwest: 5
  • Prince George: 52
  • Southeast: 66

Resources:

  • Firefighters and other personnel fighting the fires: 3,728
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 520
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 206

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 75
  • Evacuation alerts: 118 (-4)

Properties:

  • Number of properties on order: 4,951 (-1,175)
  • Number of properties on alert: 19,653 (-187)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 0 orders, 0 alerts
  • Northwest: 1 order, 1 alert
  • Northeast: 1 order, 9 (+1) alerts
  • Central: 67 orders, 97 (-5) alerts
  • Southeast: 1 order, 7 alerts
  • Southwest: 5 orders, 4 alerts

Thursday, Aug. 19

Firefighters battle out-of-control brush fire near Ladysmith

Firefighters on Vancouver Island are battling an out-of-control wildfire near Ladysmith.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says the Mt. Hayes blaze, which was discovered Thursday, has grown to four hectares and is burning about four kilometres north of the town of Ladysmith and 2.5 kilometres west of Highway 1.

Ten firefighters, along with four helicopters, two water trucks and one piece of heavy equipment, are fighting the fire.

“Crews have not got it under control yet but it is not threatening any structures at this time,” said fire information officer Donna McPherson. “We also had some support from air tankers initially as well.”

There are three fires — near Port McNeill, Ladysmith and Chemainus — burning on Vancouver Island. PHOTO BY B.C. WILDFIRE SERVICE

The Ladysmith fire is one of just three wildfires burning on Vancouver Island.

– Scott Brown

Evacuation order lifted for Logan Lake

An evacuation order for the B.C. community of Logan Lake has been downgraded to an evacuation alert.

The order was issued Aug. 13 for the community of 2,000 people after the Tremont Creek wildfire jumped fire barriers and looked headed towards the town.

District of Logan Lake mayor Robin Smith said Thursday that the community had  been advised that the imminent risk of danger to life and properties in the area has diminished and residents were permitted to return home.

The Tremont Creek fire has scorched more than 625 kilometres of forest and brush. It is considered out of control by the B.C. Wildfire Service.

No properties in Logan Lake were been destroyed.

– Scott Brown

Total active wildfires climb in B.C., but crews exploit cooler weather in fire fight

Crews are making progress against several destructive wildfires in British Columbia even as the latest statistics show the total number of fires in the province is edging toward 300 again.

Data from the Ministry of Forests and Emergency Management B.C. show 291 wildfires were blazing in the province late Wednesday and more than 8,500 square kilometres of land has been lost since the start of the fire season on April 1.

An evacuation alert was replaced by an “all clear” notice late Wednesday for more than 400 properties on the northwest flank of the roughly 811 square kilometre White Rock Lake fire east of Kamloops.

On the northeast flank, the City of Armstrong has lifted an evacuation alert for about 5,000 residents but other evacuation orders and alerts are still posted — including one along the northwest shores of Okanagan Lake where flames destroyed more than 70 properties this week.

— The Canadian Press

Some evacuation alerts lifted in White Rock Lake fire

Residents of more than 400 properties east of Kamloops can breathe easier after the Thompson-Nicola Regional District lifted several evacuation alerts near the northern flank of the White Rock Lake wildfire.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says recent weather conditions have caused a slowdown in fire activity, as crews work to suppress the 810-square kilometre blaze.

Environment Canada is calling for cooler temperatures and possible thundershowers over parts of the southern Interior today.

But the wildfire service says a long period of drenching rain is needed to subdue the most aggressive of some 260 wildfires burning across B.C.

— The Canadian Press

Lawsuit claims CN and CP railways at fault for sparking fire that wiped out Lytton

A woman whose home, art and cherished memorabilia were incinerated by the wildfire that destroyed Lytton has filed a class-action lawsuit against Canada’s two main railroads, CN and CP.

Carel Moiseiwitsch says she lost almost everything when the inferno razed the village and her one-and-a-half-storey, three-bedroom home on Alonzo Way that contained personal belongings as well as her art and rug collection.

In her B.C. Supreme Court statement of claim, she alleges the Lytton fire was caused June 30 by heat or sparks from a Canadian Pacific freight train operated by Canadian National Rail employees on tracks owned by CN.

The suit claims the trains have been causing fires for more than a century, and the railroads should have known it was unsafe to operate that day because of the high heat and winds.

Speaking from her daughter’s home in Vancouver on Wednesday, Moiseiwitsch had trouble finding words to describe the nightmare.

“I don’t really think any kind of money will compensate for this,” she said, her voice cracking.

— Ian Mulgrew

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Here’s the latest from the B.C. Wildfire Service

Fires (since April 1, 2021):

  • 1,529 wildfires
  • 852,386 hectares of area burned
  • Currently burning: 291

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 31
  • Coastal: 19
  • Kamloops: 82
  • Northwest: 5
  • Prince George: 56
  • Southeast: 61

Resources:

  • Total firefighters and other personnel fighting the fires: 3,849
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 539
  • Contractors: 1,223
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 208

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 75 (-5)
  • Evacuation alerts: 122 (-1)

Properties:

  • Number of properties on order: 5,985 (-1,149)
  • Number of properties on alert: 17,870 (-2,434)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 0 orders, 0 alerts
  • Northwest: 1 (+1) order, 1 alert
  • Northeast: 1 order, 8 (-1) alerts
  • Central: 67 (-4) orders, 102 alerts
  • Southeast: 1 order, 7 alerts
  • Southwest: 5 (-2) orders, 4 alerts

Wednesday, Aug. 18

Proposed lawsuit claims CN and CP railways at fault for Lytton fire

A proposed class-action lawsuit alleges Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railways caused or contributed to the wildfire that destroyed the Village of Lytton.

The B.C. Supreme Court statement of claim alleges the fire was set off by heat or sparks emanating from a CP freight train operated by CN employees on tracks owned by CN .

It says the fire started at about 4:15 p.m. on June 30, where the CN bridge crosses the Fraser River, and winds of up to 70 km/h carried the fire into Lytton, burning the town in less than two hours.

The RCMP, BC Wildfire Service and Transportation Safety Board are still investigating the cause of the fire, and neither CN or CP immediately returned a request for comment.

While court approval is needed for a class-action lawsuit, the court documents say the representative plaintiff lost her home and the graphic design company she operated out of the property in Lytton.

With temperatures nearing 50 C, the lawsuit alleges the railway companies should have know conditions were unsafe to operate and that they failed to protect the town.

The suit asks for damages to cover losses for property, housing, business income and pain and suffering.

– The Canadian Press

RCMP urge evacuees to leave notes behind so officials know they’re safe

RCMP are asking wildfire evacuees to leave a note informing emergency personnel of their whereabouts as part of their evacuation plan.

The posting is to help ensure the residents were notified of the danger and are safe, said Cst. Chris Terleski of Vernon North Okanagan RCMP.

Accounting for each evacuee is particularly challenging in the region, given its large number of rural properties, Terleski noted. Volunteers and first responders have been going door to door to assist with emergency orders.

The note should include the residents’ names, when they left, where they are and a contact number they can be reached at. It should also be highly visible.

“This information is key and with it, we can confidently move on to the next home knowing you and your loved ones are safe, which will always be our first priority,” Terleski said.

Some evacuation orders downgraded as cooler weather brings wildfire reprieve to B.C.

Several days of showers and cooler weather have dramatically cut the wildfire danger in British Columbia, especially in the hard-hit southern Interior, but drought conditions are expected to return when the sunshine resumes.

The B.C. Wildfire Service lists the current wildfire danger as low across most of the Kamloops Fire Centre, where at least six major fires have destroyed homes in several communities.

The reprieve means some evacuation orders on some of the blazes, including the damaging White Rock Lake wildfire, have been partially downgraded to alerts and residents in certain areas are allowed to return home.

Others, including the more than 70 who lost homes Sunday night as the White Rock Lake blaze reached the northwest shore of Okanagan Lake, are still waiting to get a good look at what remains of their properties.

The Forests Ministry says nearly 270 wildfires are burning in all corners of the province and almost 8,500 square kilometres of land has been charred since the start of the fire season, an estimated increase of nearly 400 square kilometres in just 24 hours.

— The Canadian Press

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Here’s the latest from the B.C. Wildfire Service

Fires (since April 1, 2021):

  • 1, 518 wildfires
  • 846,144 hectares of area burned
  • Currently burning: 264

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 32
  • Coastal: 18
  • Kamloops: 85
  • Northwest: 5
  • Prince George: 57
  • Southeast: 67

Resources:

  • Firefighters and other personnel currently fighting the fires: 3,830
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 490
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 210

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 80 (-6)
  • Evacuation alerts: 123 (-2)

Properties:

  • Number of properties on order: 7,330 (-932)
  • Number of properties on alert: 22,263 (-466)

Orders and Alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 0 orders 0 alerts
  • Northwest: 0 orders 1 alerts
  • Northeast: 1 orders 9 alerts
  • Central: 71 (-4) orders 102 alerts
  • Southeast: 1(-1) orders 7(-2) alerts
  • Southwest: 7 orders 4(+1) alerts

Tourists being refused refunds after ‘trying to do the right thing’

Travellers who are cancelling accommodation reservations after being told not to enter wildfire zones across B.C. are now being refused refunds or offered only partial repayment.

“We were trying to do the right thing,” said Joe Rino on Tuesday. His family, including his wife and two young children, had a week-long reservation at an Airbnb in Fintry, on Okanagan Lake, last week. Before leaving Calgary, they called their Airbnb host, asking to cancel because the area was on evacuation alert.

They were told they would lose half of their $2,700 pre-paid fees.

“We were told by the host of the property that if we did in fact get put on evacuation order, then we would get 100 per cent back of our missed vacation time,” said Rino.

An evacuation order was made on the first night of their stay in Fintry, but the family did not receive a full refund.

The Rino family’s story is not uncommon. Dozens of people have posted on social media about similar experiences.

Many who received refunds were only able to do so because their Airbnb hosts voluntarily waived stated cancellation policies. But Airbnb did not refund the additional fees it charges for listing the accommodation.

— Lisa Cordasco

Tuesday, Aug. 17

Cooler conditions offer some relief to crews battling more than 260 B.C. wildfires

The manager of fire operations for B.C.’s wildfire service says rain and cooler temperatures have taken an edge off some of the most aggressive blazes among more than 260 burning across the province.

Todd Nessman says the reprieve was welcome after winds fanned fire growth over the weekend, including at the White Rock Lake fire, which destroyed as many as 70 properties near the western banks of Okanagan Lake. He says rain fell on some crucial areas that have been in a prolonged drought and the forecast this week looks favourable, though the moisture will be short-lived as the landscape dries out.

Nessman says the rain isn’t enough to reverse the impacts of the very hot and dry spring and summer.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan says crews have made substantial progress battling the Mt. Law fire outside West Kelowna, where one structure was significantly damaged along with one previously damaged outbuilding. It says evacuation orders due to the fire, measured at about eight square kilometres, have been partially downgraded and most residents have been allowed to return home, with the exception of 17 properties on the outskirts of the Glenrosa neighbourhood.

The district says it was contacting property owners Tuesday to inform them about the state of their homes along the northwest side of Okanagan Lake after the White Rock Lake fire swept through the communities of Killiney and Ewings Landing late Sunday or early Monday.

The same fire, which now measures more than 780 sq. km, raced through the communities of Monte Lake and Westwold earlier this month, destroying homes and properties.

Nearly 8,250 sq. km of trees, bush and grassland have been charred by more than 1,500 fires since the start of the wildfire season, Nessman says. The 10-year average for the same period is 1,036 fires and about 2,000 sq. km burned.

– The Canadian Press

State of emergency extended

Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, has extended the provincial state of emergency for two more weeks until Aug. 31 to support the province’s on-going response to the wildfire situation.

As of Tuesday morning, 263 wildfires were burning in B.C., with 86 evacuation orders in place affecting approximately 8,262 properties.

There are also 125 evacuation alerts affecting nearly 23,000 more properties.

“We’ve seen several large fires spread rapidly over the weekend in multiple communities throughout the province,” said Farnworth. “As we renew this state of emergency for another two weeks, I want to assure British Columbians that we’re taking every step possible to ensure the safety of everyone in these communities. We’re also asking travellers to stay away from fire-affected areas — those under evacuation order or alert — and consider travelling to other areas of B.C. until the situation stabilizes.”

Coquihalla reopens to essential travel

The Coquihalla Highway reopened Tuesday, although a travel advisory remains in effect due to the ongoing wildfire threat.

The highway was closed in both directions between Hope and Merritt on Sunday due to a wildfire raging on both sides of the busy highway.

On Tuesday, DriveBC reported the highway is now open but is limited to essential travel only. Drivers are urged to drive straight through. Facilities and access to on/off ramps are currently not available.

Cooler conditions offer fractional relief to crews battling nearly 300 B.C. wildfires

Nearly 300 wildfires are burning across British Columbia but showers and cooler temperatures have taken an edge off the most aggressive blazes and curbed a cascade of evacuation orders and alerts.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan says it plans to contact individual property owners through the day to inform them about the state of their homes along the northwest side of Okanagan Lake.

The roughly 650-square kilometre White Rock Lake fire swept through the communities of Killiney and Ewings Landing yesterday.

The district estimates about 70 properties have been burned, in addition to those in Monte Lake and Westwold levelled by the same fire earlier this month.

Evacuation orders and alerts issued over the last two days are still posted for many cities, towns and districts in the southern Interior threatened by several other large fires, including fires near West Kelowna, Merritt and Kamloops.

Travel into the Interior has been complicated by the closure of Highway 5, the Coquihalla Highway, as fire cut the route Sunday, while a mudslide has severed Highway 1 about 30 kilometres north of Lytton.

— The Canadian Press

‘Nerve-wracking’: out-of-control B.C. wildfires catch travelling Calgarians off guard

Members of a Calgary family say watching a wildfire outside Kelowna grow before their eyes was enough to send them packing to go back home almost as soon as they arrived in B.C.

Calgarian Hailey McBurney drove with her husband and two young children to Kelowna on Sunday, with plans for a long-awaited family visit in Vernon — the first in nearly two years, since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

McBurney said in hindsight, they should have called off the trip, but they hoped the rain in the forecast might improve the situation. After making it through an “apocalyptic” stretch of highway near Armstrong, B.C. — where the sky was so dark the kids kept asking whether it was nighttime — McBurney said skies were blue driving into Kelowna around 4 p.m.

But later that night, from the condo where they were staying, they could see smoke across the lake in West Kelowna, as the Mount Law fire started to spread.

At the height of summer vacation season for many Albertans, officials are warning visitors to stay away from several Interior B.C. areas north of Kelowna as high winds fan out-of-control wildfires. Some entire cities and communities are now under evacuation orders.

DriveBC, the online traveller information system, says the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt remains closed until further notice, after flames cut the route late Sunday. Authorities are also asking people to avoid non-essential travel so there isn’t congestion on evacuation routes.

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Here’s the latest from the B.C. Wildfire Service

Fires (Since April 1, 2021):

  • 1,513 wildfires
  • 805,500 hectares
  • Currently burning: 264

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 33
  • Coastal: 20
  • Kamloops: 84
  • Northwest: 5
  • Prince George: 58
  • Southeast: 64

Resources:

  • Total personnel: 3,627
  • Contract firefighters: 1,185
  • Out-of-province personnel: 519
  • Aircraft (rotary and fixed-wing): 209

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 86 (+12)
  • Evacuation alerts: 125 (+6)

Properties:

  • Number of properties on order: 8,262 (+1,655)
  • Number of properties on alert: 22,729 (+6,707)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 0 orders 1 (-1) alerts
  • Northwest: 0 orders 1 alert
  • Northeast: 1 (-1) order 9 alerts
  • Central: 75 (+12) orders 102 (+7) alerts
  • Southeast: 3 (+1) orders 9 alerts
  • Southwest: 7 orders 3 alerts
  • Monday, Aug. 16

Coquihalla Highway closed between Hope and Merritt as wildfires spread

A wildfire sparked Sunday near West Kelowna now covers at least two square kilometres and has forced evacuations in a large neighbourhood within the City of West Kelowna.

The out-of-control wildfire was first spotted between Peachland and West Kelowna, just north of a major highway, and had forced nearly 500 evacuations within hours.

The aggressive Mount Law fire is one of several that flared overnight, including one now raging on both sides of the Coquihalla Highway between Merritt and Kamloops. The highway between Hope and Merritt is closed in both directions until further notice.

The Ministry of Transportation is asking the public to avoid non-essential travel to areas experiencing wildfire activity.

“Non-essential travel to and within fire-affected areas is discouraged to help avoid traffic congestion on evacuation routes,” the ministry said. “If you must travel on Interior highways adjacent to wildfires, make sure you are prepared for possible delays or closures. Travel with a full tank of gas, food, water and other emergency supplies.”

Travellers are advised to check the DriveBC website for the latest conditions.

Evacuation alerts are also posted for all 7,000 residents of the City of Merritt and for more than 700 properties on the southwest edge of Kamloops as separate wildfires threaten those regions.

The 622-square-kilometre White Rock Lake fire, which destroyed homes and properties between Kamloops and Vernon earlier this month, has been challenging fire crews working to save homes along the northwest shore of Okanagan Lake.

Part of the Township of Spallumcheen was ordered evacuated late Sunday due to the same fire, while residents in nearby Armstrong must be ready to leave on short notice.

The wildfire service says nearly 270 wildfires are currently burning in all corners of the province and many — including the blaze that destroyed the Village of Lytton in June and a 316-square-kilometre fire west of Prince George — continue to put homes and properties at risk.

– The Canadian Press

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Here’s the latest from the BC Wildfire Service:

Fires (Since April 1, 2021):

  • 1,511 wildfires
  • 66,709 hectares
  • Currently burning: 268

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 32
  • Coastal: 21
  • Kamloops: 86
  • Northwest: 5
  • Prince George: 60
  • Southeast: 64

Resources:

  • Total personnel: 3,701
  • Contract firefighters: 1,236
  • Out-of-province personnel: 480
  • Aircraft (rotary and fixed-wing): 213

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 74 (+13)
  • Evacuation alerts: 119 (-1)

Properties:

  • Number of properties on order: 6,607 (+717)
  • Number of properties on alert: 16,022 (+1,307)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 0 orders 2 alerts
  • Northwest: 0 orders 1 alert
  • Northeast: 2 orders 9 alerts
  • Central: 63 orders 95 alerts
  • Southeast: 2 orders 9 alerts
  • Southwest: 7 orders 3 alerts

Sunday, Aug. 15

Hundreds of properties evacuated as wind prompts growth in B.C. wildfires

High winds intensified numerous wildfires burning in British Columbia, forcing more evacuation orders for residents in hundreds of homes late Sunday, says the BC Wildfire Service.

Some of the largest and most dangerous fires are burning in the southern Interior in the Kamloops fire centre where most of the new evacuation orders have been issued.

Andrew Roebbelen with the Thompson-Nicola Regional District said there are 29 evacuation orders affecting over 1,400 properties in the area.

There are at least a dozen wildfires in the district, including the Lytton, White Rock Lake, Tremont Creek and Sparks Lake blazes, he said.

The City of Kamloops issued an evacuation order for more than 700 properties due to the sudden growth of the Tremont Creek wildfire.

Orders to get out were issued for hundreds of properties in the Township of Spallumcheen late Sunday as the White Rock Lake fire pushed forward, said spokeswoman Lisa Gyorkos.

The same fire destroyed homes in Monte Lake and Westwold about 60 kilometres west of Spallumcheen on Aug. 4.

The City of Armstrong, with a population of about 5,000 people, has been placed on evacuation alert.

The city says in a statement that the alert is a precautionary measure due to the rapidly changing conditions of the White Rock Lake Fire.

“The fires are unpredictable in nature but remain approximately 20 kilometres from the city,” the statement says.

– The Canadian Press

High winds pose challenge for firefighters battling blazes: BC Wildfire Service

The B.C. Wildfire Service says it is watching wind conditions in several parts of the province which fuelled some of the larger blazes overnight.

Fire information officer Erika Berg called the gusty winds a challenge, saying they were fanning the flames of blazes in the southern and Interior regions.

She says there are about 270 active wildfires burning in the province, with a total of just under 7,000 square kilometres of land scorched.

Berg says less than 10 square kilometres of land had burned by this time last year, which she described as a particularly quiet year for wildfires.

She says the current area burned is about seven times more than the 10-year average, which was around 1,770 square kilometres.

– The Canadian Press

‘I have never been more concerned,’ says former B.C. Wildfire Service spokesman

Former B.C. Wildfire Service spokesperson Kevin Skrepnek, who has spent the better part of a decade informing the public about B.C. wildfires, has never seen a situation as dire as the one the province is facing right now.

“In my career, I have never been more concerned than I am for what this province will face in the next 36 hours,” Skrepnek, who currently serves as the emergency program coordinator for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, said on Twitter. “There is the chance of (some) rain for a few areas by Sunday night (and) Monday, but between then and now we will have to navigate one of the most volatile combinations of natural and human factors that many of us have ever seen.”

With at least another month of wildfire activity ahead of us, Skrepnek is advising those who live in threatened areas to be prepared to evacuate.

“If you live ‘beyond Hope’, please have a plan, a tank full of gas, and a backup plan,” he said. “If you feel like your safety is at risk, don’t wait to be told by authorities to leave.”

Monte Lake resident loses Wayne Gretzky rookie card in wildfire

Robert Hugh of Monte Lake so prized his Wayne Gretzky rookie card that he bought a fireproof safe to store it in.

So earlier this month, when the White Rock Lake wildfire prompted an evacuation order as it tore through the community, Hugh and his wife packed up their car and left the card behind — counting on the six-month-old box to keep it safe.

It didn’t.

“I got to enjoy Wayne for many, many years. Some things we just don’t get rid of in our lives up until we’re forced to,” Hugh said. “Poor Wayne. He got burned up.”

The wildfire ripped through Hugh’s property, destroying much of the square kilometre it takes up. It levelled the house and took the not-so-fireproof safe along with it.

Hugh had the card with him for 25 years, and also had a number of opportunities to sell it, he said.

Earlier this year, a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Gretzky rookie card was sold to an anonymous buyer for $4.69 million, though Hugh’s card likely wouldn’t have fetched that sum.

“Well, it wasn’t in that good a condition, but you know it was certainly worth a lot more than I thought it was worth at one time,” Hugh said with a chuckle.

He is hoping he can get back the $400 he paid for the box.

– The Canadian Press

Saturday, Aug. 14

Firefighters prepare for higher winds, lightning strikes

The B.C. Wildfire Service says it is preparing for a potential increase in lightning strikes and shifting winds as cooler weather is forecast over the next few days.

Fire information officer Erika Berg says the shift in temperatures is forecast for Sunday evening, possibly also bringing pyrocumulonimbus clouds in the southern region that usually cause their own weather systems, including an increase in lightning.

She says thunderstorms are most likely to be seen in northern B.C., including the Fort Nelson and Cariboo fire centres, with a chance of an increase in lightning strikes that can potentially cause more wildfires.

She says gusty, shifting winds are also forecast for large stretches of the province, noting they too may cause an increase in size and intensity of fires.

Berg says the service has been conducting prescribed burns on some of the larger blazes such as the White Rock Lake, Tremont Creek and Flat Lake wildfires to prepare for a potential increase in lightning strikes.

Late Saturday night, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District Emergency Operations Centre issued an evacuation order for 117 properties in the Paska Lake area due to the Tremont Creek fire.

Heat warnings are in effect for several parts of southern B.C. including east Vancouver and the Southern Gulf Islands, Fraser Valley, North Thompson and Whistler, where the mercury is forecast to touch the mid- to high 30s.

— The Canadian Press

Fraser Health accepts long-term care residents from 100 Mile House

Because of the threat of wildfires in the area, Fraser Health is co-ordinating the evacuation of residents from three long-term care and assisted living homes in 100 Mile House.

People living at Fischer Place, Mill Site Lodge and Carefree Manor in 100 Mile House will be arriving Saturday evening at temporary housing in homes in Surrey, Coquitlam, Burnaby and Abbotsford.

Logan Lake wildfire evacuees arrive in Chilliwack

Her three cats and husband safely in tow, Darlene Johnston arrived in Chilliwack on Friday after fleeing Logan Lake on Thursday and spending the night in a Langley hotel.

“We had more notice than Lytton or other places. We were on alert for three days or so,” Johnston said before heading into Chilliwack Secondary to register with officials after Logan Lake was evacuated the day before due to a threatening wildfire.

“It’s a good community, everybody was knocking on doors, ‘We’re on alert! We’re on alert!’” Johnston said.

The Chilliwack high school is being used as an emergency centre, where Logan Lake evacuees register and volunteers help them find shelter and food.

Logan Lake is a FireSmart community, one of the first in Canada, so a lot of underbrush had been cleared. But the Tremont Creek wildfire jumped fire barriers on Wednesday night and began moving toward Logan Lake, a town of about 2,000.

Mayor Robin Smith ordered the evacuation and declared a local state of emergency on Thursday.

-Gordon McIntyre

Forecast winds up to 60 km/h around B.C. wildfires is a ‘direct threat to life and property’

Winds forecast to fan wildfires over the weekend are a “direct threat to life and property,” a B.C. Wildfire Service official says.

The provincial government is asking tourists to leave, or avoid, the communities of Armstrong, Spallumcheen, the Okanagan Indian Band and parts of the Regional District of North Okanagan in the southern Interior.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the government is making this unusual plea to better protect lives.

“While we’re acting out of an abundance of caution, the situation is very serious and could very well get worse quickly,” he said in a media briefing Friday.

Farnworth acknowledged the rise in wildfires in the province can be linked to climate change and will be something the government needs to plan for.

Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations for the wildfire service, said forecasters expect to see winds up to 30 kilometres per hour on Saturday and double that on Sunday, fanning the flames of some of British Columbia’s largest fires.

Chapman said if the winds arrive, the wildfire service expects to see aggressive fire behaviour in forests that are tinder dry from recent heat waves, with the potential for embers to push out ahead of the blaze creating significant growth.

— The Canadian Press

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Here’s the latest from the BC Wildfire Service:

Fires:

  • Wildfires currently burning in B.C.: 273
  • Since April 1, 2021: 1,499 wildfires
  • 670,923 hectares of area burned

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 35
  • Coastal: 21
  • Kamloops: 85
  • Northwest: 5
  • Prince George: 65
  • Southeast: 56

Resources:

  • Firefighters and other personnel currently fighting fires: 3,695
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 404
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 207

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 59 (+3)
  • Evacuation alerts: 112 (+4)
  • Number of properties on order: 6,321 (+87)
  • Number of properties on alert: 27,776 (+359)

Orders and Alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 1 orders 0 alerts
  • Northwest: 0 orders 0 alerts
  • Northeast: 1 orders 8 (+2) alerts
  • Central: 52 (+3) orders 90 (+2) alerts
  • Southeast: 2 orders 8 (-1) alerts
  • Southwest: 4 (+1) orders 5 alerts
 

Friday, Aug. 13

Heat wave, winds compound wildfire risk in B.C.

Winds forecast to fan wildfires over the weekend in British Columbia are a “direct threat to life and property,” a B.C. Wildfire Service official says.

The provincial government is asking tourists to leave, or avoid, the communities of Armstrong, Spallumcheen, the Okanagan Indian Band and parts of the Regional District of North Okanagan in the southern Interior.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the government is making this unusual plea to better protect lives.

“While we’re acting out of an abundance of caution, the situation is very serious and could very well get worse quickly,” he said in a media briefing Friday.

Farnworth acknowledged the rise in wildfires in the province can be linked to climate change and will be something the government needs to plan for.

Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations for the wildfire service, said forecasters expect to see winds up to 30 kilometres per hour on Saturday and double that on Sunday, fanning the flames of some of British Columbia’s largest fires.

— The Canadian Press

No structure damage overnight Thursday for White Rock Lake wildfire

The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre says there no change in evacuation orders and alerts for the White Rock Lake wildfire, however there could be more this weekend because of hot and dry conditions.

The centre is reminding residents to remain alert and subscribe to cordermergency.ca for updates. A detailed map showing the present status of orders and alerts affecting properties within the RDCO is at cordemergency.ca/map .

“Working alongside other agencies, fire fighters continue their hard work, patrolling for hotspots and combustibles to mitigate potential fire growth,” said Alex Van Bruksvoort, North Westside fire chief, in a statement Friday.

“There are no confirmed reports of structure damage in the area overnight.”

Volunteers continue to staff the Emergency Support Services reception centre at 1480 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Information and links to help with emergency preparations is available at cordemergency.ca/beprepared .

For the latest information on Westside Road access and closures please visit drivebc.ca .

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Here’s the latest from the B.C. Wildfire Service:

Fires:

  • Since April 1, 2021: 1,486 wildfires
  • 660,071 hectares of area burned
  • Wildfires burning in B.C.: 268

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 33
  • Coastal: 23
  • Kamloops: 87
  • Northwest: 5
  • Prince George: 60
  • Southeast: 60

Resources:

  • Total personnel: 3,793
  • Contract firefighters: 1,214
  • Out-of-province personnel: 411
  • Aircraft (rotary and fixed-wing): 205

Evacuations:

  •  Evacuation orders: 56 (+1)
  • Evacuation alerts: 108 (+3)
  • Number of properties on order: 6,237 (+1,645)
  • Number of properties on alert: 27,417 (-1,753)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 1 order, 0 alerts
  • Northwest: 0 orders, 0 alerts
  • Northeast: 1 order, 6 (-1) alerts
  • Central: 49 (+2) orders, 88 (+2) alerts
  • Southeast: 2 orders, 9 alerts
  • Southwest: 3 (-1) orders, 5 (+2) alerts

Thursday, Aug. 12

Logan Lake Mayor Robin Smith has ordered the evacuation of the District of Logan Lake due to the threat of a wildfire in the area.

The order came into effect at 3:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

To the north, the Tremont Creek wildfire has shown increased activity on its southern branch, according to satellite data from NASA’s FIRMS monitoring system. The data shows hot spots about seven kilometres north of Logan Lake as of 1:44 p.m. on Thursday.

In the order issued by Smith, those evacuating are being asked not to use Highway 97D east toward Kamloops.

An update to the order says no accommodation is available in nearby Merritt or Ashcroft, and says the nearest Emergency Social Services reception centre is in Chilliwack, at Chilliwack Senior Secondary, 46363 Yale Rd.

However, no lodging is available there and those evacuating should be prepared to stay with family, friends or in a vehicle.

— Kamloops This Week

Evacuation orders issued due to White Rock Lake wildfire

More than 600 homes in the Central Okanagan are once again under an evacuation order due to the White Rock Lake wildfire, which is burning about 35 kilometres northwest of Vernon.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan re-issued the order Thursday as the fire continues to burn out of control near its northern boundary.

The evacuation order covers 608 properties from 6916 Barcelona Drive E. to 7355N Westside Road.

The regional authority warns sections of Westside Road through areas covered by evacuation orders will be closed, and residents will not be able to travel north to Vernon.

An evacuation order was also issued for five homes in the Nahun and Caesar’s Landing areas — from 5000N Westside Rd. to 5495 Deighton Rd.

A reception centre has been set up for evacuated residents at 1480 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna.

The growing wildfire has also prompted the Columbia Shuswap Regional District to expand an evacuation alert to include 56 more homes south of Highway 97 in the southeast corner of the district’s Electoral Area D.

The White Rock Lake fire was discovered July 13 and has consumed about 580 square kilometres of land.

More buildings lost in main B.C. fire as heat wave bakes province

Wildfire risks are spiking across much of British Columbia with the return of high temperatures.

Environment Canada says humidity will make it feel like the mid- to high 30s across the south coast and inland sections of the north and central coasts, while it could feel hotter than 40 C in parts of the Interior as heat arrives there on Thursday.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told a news conference Wednesday that the wildfire service is concerned about the potential for more fires following the heat wave.

“Obviously lightning strikes are something that are not controlled, but clearly human-caused fires continue to be a concern because they are preventable,” he said, adding that fire crews are keeping an eye on potential hot spots.

The B.C. Wildfire Service fire-danger map shows risk have returned to high or extreme across southern Vancouver Island and most of the central Interior following last weekend’s showers.

With no rain in the forecast and roughly 270 fires burning in B.C., the risk is expected to rise sharply along with the temperatures and gusty winds over fires such as the 556-square-kilometre White Rock Lake blaze between Kamloops and Vernon.

More properties have been lost to that voracious wildfire in B.C.’s southern Interior.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan said in a statement Wednesday that an aerial survey of the Bouleau Lake area, west of Vernon, determined at least six structures on four properties had “significant damage.”

The district says the area remains under an evacuation order and it’s not yet safe for inspectors to do a ground survey to assess the losses.

It is the same blaze that swept through Monte Lake and surrounding communities last week, destroying homes and businesses.

— The Canadian Press

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Fires:

  • Wildfires currently burning in B.C.: 264
  • Since April 1, 2021: 1,472 wildfires
  • 656,445 hectares of area burned

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 33
  • Coastal: 21
  • Kamloops: 84
  • Northwest: 5
  • Prince George: 58
  • Southeast: 63

Resources”

  • Firefighters and other personnel currently fighting the fires: 3,725
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 439
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 207

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 55 (-5)
  • Evacuation alerts: 105
  • Number of properties on order: 4,592 (-800)
  • Number of properties on alert: 29,170 (-1,729)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 1 Orders 0 Alerts
  • Northwest: 0 Orders 0 (-1) Alert
  • Northeast: 1 (-4) Orders 7 Alerts
  • Central: 47 (-2) Orders 86 (+1)Alerts
  • Southeast: 2 Orders 9 Alerts
  • Southwest: 4 (+1) Orders 3 Alerts

Wednesday, Aug. 11

Another heat wave set to hit parts of B.C. today

Another heat wave is expected to roast parts of southern B.C. this week, with temperatures potentially hitting the high 30s in the Lower Mainland and the 40s in the Interior.

It’s the third heat wave to hit the region this summer — a rare occurrence, said meteorologist Doug Lundquist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Tuesday, Aug. 10

B.C. and Canadian government offers disaster funds for B.C. farmers and ranchers affected by wildfire

The B.C. and federal governments are providing financial aid for farmers and ranchers who have suffered losses through wildfires, heat and droughts in 2021.

The federal-provincial AgriStability program will help producers affected by fire and drought this summer season.

“The losses B.C. farmers and ranchers have experienced this year have been heartbreaking, and recovering from them will take time, commitment and support, for which the B.C. government will be there for the whole way,” said Lana Popham, B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, in a statement issued Tuesday.

The province is also boosting interim payments for farmers and ranchers who enrolled late to the program for 2021 from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, although late registrants will still receive 20 per cent lower payment rate than those who enrolled on time.

B.C. farmers and ranchers may also be eligible to receive hay through the province’s Emergency Feed Program, which will provide emergency feed for commercial livestock for up to 14 days, said the agricultural ministry.

“We are working closely with the Province to get B.C. farm families the support they need as soon as possible,” said federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau. “By unlocking more AgriStability funds through interim payments and invoking late participation, we can get more cash in hand for farmers who are making tough decisions in a difficult situation.”

Agricultural producers who need help due to the wildfires, heat and drought are asked to contact their local authority or First Nations responsible for emergency management decisions within their jurisdiction first.

Some evacuation orders, alerts, lifted near B.C. wildfire but heat set to return

Residents of nearly 400 properties on one flank of a destructive wildfire in British Columbia’s southern Interior are being allowed to head home.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has downgraded an evacuation order to an alert.

It has also issued an all-clear for hundreds more homes threatened by the 557-square kilometre White Rock Lake wildfire burning between Kamloops and the northwest shore of Okanagan Lake.

Properties from the outskirts of Kamloops east to Chase are affected by the downgrade, which was issued last night shortly after two other local governments replaced evacuation orders with alerts in and around the communities of Falkland and Fintry.

Environment Canada has issued special weather statements covering inland sections of the north and central coasts, parts of Vancouver Island, the inner south coast and southern Interior, calling for heat in the mid- to high-30s, with little overnight relief until the weekend.

— The Canadian Press

Here’s the latest information from the B.C. Wildfire Service

Fires:

  • Wildfires burning in B.C.: 260
  • Since April 1, 2021: 1,451 wildfires
  • 650,582 hectares burned

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 32
  • Coastal: 22
  • Kamloops: 80
  • Northwest: 6
  • Prince George: 58
  • Southeast: 62

Crews and equipment:

  • Firefighters and other personnel fighting the fires: 3,549
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 364
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 209

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 63 (-3)
  • Evacuation alerts: 108 (+2)

Properties:

  • Number of properties on order: 6,219 (-373)
  • Number of properties on alert: 31,903 (-628)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 1 order, 0 alerts
  • Northwest: 0 orders, 2 alerts
  • Northeast: 5 orders, 7 alerts
  • Central: 52 (-3) orders, 86 (+2) alerts
  • Southeast: 2 orders, 10 alerts
  • Southwest: 3 orders, 3 alerts

Monday, Aug. 9

Rain calms B.C. fire starts, lowers wildfire danger but relief not expected to last

British Columbia’s wildfire danger map shows a low to moderate fire risk in much of the province after a rainy weekend, but the extreme risk is expected to resume quickly as another hot spell arrives.

The Ministry of Forests says about 270 wildfires are currently burning, most in the southern Interior, with just eight sparked over the last two days.

One of the most concerning remains the White Rock Lake fire between Kamloops and Okanagan Lake, which has scorched nearly 560-square kilometres, destroyed properties east of Kamloops and forced thousands from their homes.

It is burning in one of two B.C. regions still ranked at high to extreme risk of wildfires but a damp weekend cut the chance of embers flying across Okanagan Lake, allowing Vernon to lift its evacuation alert — although orders or alerts from three regional districts, two communities and two First Nations are still in place.

— The Canadian Press

Expect more heat, fires over the rest of August

Another period of hot, dry weather is forecast for August, stoking current fires and likely leading to new ones, according to the latest wildfire report from B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS).

The report predicts more new fires in August and significant growth among current fires of note. Hot, dry conditions are expected to return mid-week, particularly in the interior and southeast of the province, which remains at high risk for wildfires.

Widespread rainfall seen early in August would “moderate fire activity in the short-term,” according to the report. Wildfires of note, however, were expected to grow “with potential for big spread events being when winds increase over 20 kilometres per hour.”

There are no signs that B.C. can expect more rain anytime soon, however.

Temperatures across much of the province are expected to be “well above normal” and peak between Wednesday and Friday, said Philippe-Alain Bergeron, meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

— Nathan Griffiths

Despite losing everything, Monte Lake residents have returned to help others in need

Monte Lake resident Rob Bouchard and his young family lost everything when an aggressive wildfire that has been burning for weeks jumped the highway on Thursday and set their home ablaze, flattening it to nothing.

Bouchard and his family fled, but over the weekend, Bouchard — comforted by the fact his wife and their two children, aged 8 and 15, were safe and staying with friends in Chilliwack — was back in the area to help neighbours put out spot fires that are still smouldering and threatening to destroy homes that were spared by the original fire.

“I don’t know what support is available,” he said Sunday via WhatsApp messages because his cellphone wasn’t receiving calls. “We feel a bit disconnected with the outside world.”

He said, however, evacuees like him felt abandoned and were angry after hearing Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth criticize residents for defying evacuation orders.

“We endangered no firefighters. There were none here to ever endanger,” Bouchard said. “Nobody stayed in their properties while this insane fire blew through. We all came back the next day to save what is left.”

“Currently, there are three helicopters taking water from here, sending it over the mountain somewhere else with no houses,” he said. “Just heard on the radio two fires right now. One smouldering on a house. Neighbours heading over with water.”

“So it’s very insulting to be portrayed as the bad guys here,” Bouchard said. “We’re all waiting for Farnworth to come talk to us in person like he mentioned.”

— Joanne Lee-Young

Here’s the latest information from the B.C. Wildfire Service

Fires:

  • Wildfires burning in B.C.: 273
  • Since April 1, 2021: 1,445 wildfires
  • 644,420 hectares burned

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 35
  • Coastal: 24
  • Kamloops: 86
  • Northwest: 7
  • Prince George: 60
  • Southeast: 61

Crews and equipment:

  • Firefighters and other personnel fighting the fires: 3,583
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 382
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 214

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 66 (-5)
  • Evacuation alerts: 106 (-3)

Properties:

  • Number of properties on order: 6,592 (-310)
  • Number of properties on alert: 32,531 (-3,173)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 1 order, 0 alerts
  • Northwest: 0 orders, 2 alerts
  • Northeast: 5 orders, 7 (-4) alerts
  • Central: 55 (-3) orders, 84 (+1) alerts
  • Southeast: 2 (-2) orders, 10 alerts
  • Southwest: 3 orders, 3 alerts

Sunday, Aug. 8

Weather stalls significant growth at White Rock Lake fire

B.C.’s wildfire service says showers brought some relief and stalled significant overnight growth at a fire that’s forced thousands out of their homes in the southern interior.

But hot and dry conditions are expected to return Monday to challenge crews fighting the White Rock Lake fire burning between Kamloops and Okanagan Lake.

Fire has scorched more than 6,300 square kilometres of land across the province and forced more than 6,900 individuals and families from the security of their homes.

Tens of thousands more properties are on alert with more than 35,704 residents ready to leave at a moment’s notice as 31 notable wildfires pose a visible threat.

The southern interior is where the most aggressive wildfires rage. The largest, the Sparks Lake blaze, began during a heat wave that cooked the province in mid-June, has grown to 770 square kilometres.

Surrounding communities at risk include parts of Ashcroft, Savannah, Tobiano and around Tunkwa Provincial Park due to the 336-square kilometre Tremont Creek blaze, a complex wildfire with Sparks Lake.

The White Rock Lake wildfire, at 550-square kilometres, poses the most danger to humans due to its proximity to multiple communities between Kamloops and Vernon. The fire has already torn through the community of Monte Lake and devastated homes and infrastructure.

Weather remains a determining factor in the fire’s behaviour, said B.C. Wildfire Services information officer Jean Strong with 41 per cent of wildfire ignitions from lightning strikes.

The blaze, which first spread aggressively last week due to high-intensity winds, also stalled amid cooler weather conditions and isolated sprinklings of rain.

Currently, 283 wildfires are burning across B.C. and 4,658 firefighters and other personnel are working the suppress the emergency situation.

B.C. has already surpassed the total number of wildfires in 2020 as well as B.C.’s 10-year seasonal average with 1,432 since April 1.

– Sarah Grochowski, The Canadian Press

Here’s the latest information from the BC Wildfire Service

Fires:

  • Wildfires burning in B.C.: 283
  • Since April 1, 2021: 1,432 wildfires
  • 637,729 hectares of area burned

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 45
  • Coastal: 21
  • Kamloops: 84
  • Northwest: 7
  • Prince George: 59
  • Southeast: 67

Resources:

  • Firefighters and other personnel fighting the fires: 3,603
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 455
  •  Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 214

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 71 (+4)
  • Evacuation alerts: 109 (-5)

Properties:

  • Number of properties on order: 6,902 (+1,252)
  • Number of properties on alert: 35,704 (+10,760)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 1 (+1) order, 0 (-1) alerts
  • Northwest: 0 orders, 2 alerts
  • Northeast: 5 orders, 11 (-2) alerts
  • Central: 58 (+3) orders, 83 (+2) alerts
  • Southeast: 4 orders, 10 alerts
  • Southwest: 3 orders, 3 alerts

Saturday, Aug. 7

Vernon rescinds evacuation alert for much of city

The city of Vernon has rescinded an evacuation alert for much of the city.

In a post late Friday night, Vernon said the whole city was on an evacuation alert with a few exceptions.

Then in an update late Saturday afternoon, the city said based on reduced fire activity and a change in weather conditions, including light rain in the area, the city was rescinding the alert for properties within city boundaries, excluding Canadian Lakeview Estates, Adventure Bay and Tronson Road.

State of local emergency declared for wildfire on Vancouver Island

The Cowichan Valley Regional District has declared a state of local emergency because of the wildfire burning on the north slope of Mount Prevost in North Cowichan.

The wildfire has now grown to 0.32 square kilometres and is a concern for firefighters because winds are expected to shift overnight, according to a news release from the CVRD.

The district said a regional sprinkler protection unit has been deployed and a second is available to be deployed Sunday if the fire continues to spread towards the Cowichan Exhibition grounds.

An evacuation order has been issued for a single property in proximity to the wildfire on Mount Prevost Road.

Fire officials release update on wildfire situation in B.C.

Here’s the latest information from the BC Wildfire Service:

Fires:

  • Wildfires burning in B.C.: 291
  • Since April 1, 2021: 1,425 wildfires
  •  608,178 hectares burned

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 47
  • Coastal: 21
  • Kamloops: 84
  • Northwest: 7
  • Prince George: 65
  • Southeast: 67

Resources:

  • Firefighters and other personnel fighting the fires: 3,530
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 609
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 281

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation orders: 67 (+7)
  • Evacuation alerts: 114 (+7)
  • Number of properties on order: 5,650 (+1,136)
  • Number of properties on alert: 24,944 (+3,884)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 0 orders, 1 (+1) alert
  • Northwest: 0 orders, 2 alerts
  • Northeast: 5 orders, 13 (-3) alerts
  • Central: 55 (+6) orders, 85 (+9) alerts
  • Southeast: 4 orders, 10 alerts
  • Southwest: 3 (+1) orders, 3 alerts

Vernon expands evacuation alert to rest of city, with few exceptions

The City of Vernon is expanding the evacuation alert to include the rest of the properties within city, with some exceptions including the Predator Ridge and Sparkling Hill neighbourhoods, the Okanagan Landing South neighbourhoods, and the Commonage area, south of Bench Row Road.

The city says the decision to expand the alert was made out of an abundance of caution based on the advice of BC Wildfire Service because of increased fire activity from the White Rock Lake wildfire.

No areas of the city are under evacuation order.

The Vernon ESS Reception Centre is anticipating a high volume of evacuees from neighbouring communities throughout the day, and as such, is asking everyone to register online at  ess.gov.bc.ca 

Friday, Aug. 6

Evacuation orders expanded near White Rock Lake fire

The Central Okanagan Regional District has expanded evacuation orders around the aggressive White Rock Lake wildfire.

“Residents from approximately 975 properties previously on alert along Westside Road are now under evacuation order and must leave their homes and campsites immediately,” said the district in a release late Friday.

The affected area runs south from Ewings Landing to the south end of La Casa Lakeside Resort. This includes properties in Valley of the Sun, Upper Fintry, Shalal Road, Fintry Delta, Fintry Provincial Park and

La Casa Lakeside Resort.

Non-residents and visitors are being urged to leave the area to allow emergency services to deal with those directly affected by the order. More information is available here .

Monte Lake extensively damaged by wildfire

Another B.C. community has been devastated by a raging wildfire and more could be at risk from a blaze in the southern Interior between Kamloops and Vernon.

Ken Gillis, chairman of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, says he has been advised that damage is extensive in the community of Monte Lake and through the nearby Paxton Valley.

The 325-square-kilometre White Rock Lake wildfire jumped Highway 97 about 40 kilometres southeast of Kamloops late Thursday.

An official with the B.C. Wildfire Service has confirmed further growth of the blaze is expected, and a statement from the service says winds gusting up to 40 kilometres per hour are expected through the day.

Hundreds of properties in communities to the east and west of Monte Lake were already under evacuation order, but further evacuation orders were issued by the regional district overnight and the City of Kamloops has placed residents in several of its southeastern neighbourhoods on evacuation alert.

It was just over a month ago that a wildfire raced through the Village of Lytton, killing two people, destroying most of the community and causing an estimated $78 million in damage.

The wildfire service says nearly 300 fires are currently burning in B.C. and just over 5,800 square kilometres have been charred since the start of the wildfire season on April 1.

Fire officials provide update on wildfire situation

Here’s the latest information from the B.C. Wildfire Service:

Fires:

  • Wildfires currently burning in B.C.: 291
  • Since April 1, 2021: 1,402 wildfires
  • 583,118 hectares burned

Active fires by fire centre:

  • Cariboo: 51
  • Coastal: 20
  • Kamloops: 84
  • Northwest: 7
  • Prince George: 68
  • Southeast: 61

Resources:

  • Firefighters and other personnel fighting the fires: 3,651
  • Out-of-province firefighters: 610
  • Helicopters and planes supporting ground crews: 214

Evacuations:

  • Evacuation Orders: 60 (-3)
  • Evacuation Alerts: 107 (+4)
  • Number of properties on order: 4,514 (+286)
  • Number of properties on alert: 21,060 (-343)

Orders and alerts by Emergency Management BC region:

  • Vancouver Island Central Coast: 0 orders, 0 alerts
  • Northwest: 0 orders, 2 alerts
  • Northeast: 5 (+2) orders, 16 (+4) alerts
  • Central: 49 (-6) orders, 76 alerts
  • Southeast: 4 (-1) orders, 10 (+1) alerts
  • Southwest: 2 (+2) orders, 3 (-1) alerts
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