The number of new fires keeps growing in British Columbia.
The BC Wildfire Service updated the fire situation in the province at a news conference Sunday.
“Today we have 220 wildfires across the province,” said chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek. “We had another very active day yesterday. We had a little under 100 fires start yesterday alone, and that’s in the wake of Friday where we had over 140 fires start in a single day. There continues to be active wildfire behavior and heavy smoke has made it difficult to accurate sizes on many of these fires.”
Skrepnek provided an update on several of the major fires.
The Gustafsen fire near 100 Mile House is listed at 3,200 hectares, with 107 firefighters, equipment and aircraft.
There is a cluster of fires around Williams Lake. Two of them are over 2,000 hectares including 150 Mile House east of town and the Wildwood fire to the north.
“They are certainly posing a threat to the nearby area,” says Skrepnek.
Dragon Mountain is south east of Quesnel is 1,500 hectares with no evacuations or alerts in, but “there is a very real potential that could change over the course of the day given the activity,” says Skrepnek.
There is also a cluster of fires west of Williams Lake around Hanceville, but there re no accurate sizes on those at this point.
The Ashcroft fire is listed at 4,400 hectares with 0% containment.
“There are some concerns for communities to the north and east of this area just v given the way the fire has been growing,” says Skrepnek.
The Princeton area fire is at 1,500 hectares with evacuation orders in place for 50 properties.
There are three fires around Little Fort, which has led to the evacuation of that town, with two fires to the east of town and another southwest.
The Harrison Lake Fire is 185 hectares and still being actioned in the Coastal Fire Centre.
Skrepnek says there is no reprieve in the weather the next 3 to 5 days.
“We are expecting more gusty winds today and that could certainly lead to more fire activity.”
A number of BC Parks have been closed.
“We are not talking about immediate threats to the areas but given they are in isolated areas, it’s easier to get people out ahead of time given access concerns.”
Skrepnek says a request has been made for over 300 fire crews and specialists from the Canadian Inter Agency Forest Fire Centre.
“We expect them to begin arriving over the next few days.”
Chris Duffy from Emergency Management BC estimates about 7,000 people have been forced from their homes, and officials expect that number to remain fluid and potentially grow the next few days, depending on the fire activity.
There is no official estimate on how many homes and structures have been lost but there have been reports of many in the Ashcroft-Cache Creek area and some in the 100 Mile House area.
Skrepnek says two to three weeks of hot dry weather combined with a weather system on Friday that brought wind and dry lightning was what touched off the vast majority of the new fires.
The information officer estimates 23,697 hectares have been burned so far this season in BC, with 552 total fires, half of them currently active.
Photo courtesy of CFJC Today