Entire communities ready to evacuate at any time as wildfires rage in British Columbia
More than 1,500 properties in British Columbia remain under evacuation order Thursday due to raging wildfires nearby, and thousands more are ready to leave their homes at any time.
Many communities under evacuation alert this week were among the hardest hit by the devastating forest fires of 2017. Two mayors say this year’s storyline brought back memories of that season four years ago, when Thousands of people had to suddenly flee their homes after changing winds pushed the fires. closer.
“We’ve been through this before, so everyone is working together,” said Mitch Campsall, Mayor of 100 Mile House.
Some of the largest evacuation orders in British Columbia cover approximately 1,480 properties surrounding 100 Mile House, with residents of the Canim Lake and Lone Butte areas warned of the “immediate danger” of wildfires.
Over 3,000 properties in nearby Horse Lake are on evacuation alert. The 100 Mile House district, about 200 kilometers north of Kamloops, is in the same boat.
Campsall spoke to CBC News by phone Thursday from his post at a checkpoint on Freeway 97C. The road has been closed south of 100 Mile House as a nearby fire threatens to blow up the freeway.
The mayor said he was closely monitoring the roads after the 2017 forest fires.
“That year we were on a road and we were almost locked in, so we keep an eye out [this year]”said Campsall.
Two additional routes to and from 100 Mile House are still open should an evacuation become necessary.
Erin Bull, fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, said progress has been made on the Canim Lake fire, which was burning just north of 100 Mile House, but the situation is difficult for residents .
“It is very difficult for people to have to leave their homes, especially during a tactical evacuation, at some point,” she said.
“There is a lot of fire in the landscape of the region,” she continued, adding that similar conditions were observed in 2017.
“By the time these fires started… we all knew we were experiencing unusually warm conditions for the season, so this of course has been a huge contribution to all the wildfires in the region.”
British Columbia Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has acknowledged that residents’ stress is increasing.
“I know tensions for many are high, given the widespread and damaging fire seasons of recent years,” he said in a written statement.
“I want to assure British Columbians that we are deploying all the personnel and equipment necessary and available to respond to wildfires across the province. The federal government and the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center provide firefighting personnel, air support and other resources.
Appeal for a provincial state of emergency
Merlin Blackwell, mayor of Clearwater, B.C., said the provincial government should declare a province-wide state of emergency because more wildfires could occur elsewhere.
“We have a two-week forecast of warm weather coming our way – there is no relief in sight for the rain for most of the province,” Blackwell said. “Almost every hour we see another alert or an evacuation order go into effect – it’s time for action.”
The president of the Cariboo Regional District agrees.
The state of emergency “gives us access to more support after the wildfire season,” Margo Wagner told CBC host Shelley Joyce on Thursday. Dawn Kamloops. “We know that from 2017 it’s a really long recovery period, and I can tell you that this won’t be any different because we have a lot of people expressing higher stress, more triggers. high fires we have in the area. ”
Villages near Kamloops on alert
The fires are also affecting entire communities directly south of the Cariboo region.
The villages of Ashcroft and Cache Creek are under evacuation alert, as is the Ashcroft Indian Band Reserve. Strong winds stoked a wildfire near Lake Barnes on Wednesday, pushing it to 78 square kilometers.
“Yesterday, unfortunately, the fire got out of hand,” Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden said.
“We just do [the alert] as a precaution. We certainly hope it goes that far, but we want people to stay informed and be able to make decisions… and take preparatory steps, ”she said.
The village of Ashcroft was the ‘zero point’ of one of the largest wildfires in British Columbia history in 2017. The monstrous Elephant Hill fire started just south of the community, a destroyed more than 120 homes and forced thousands to flee their communities.
Roden said the village adjusted its contingency plans after the fire cut power and communications with little warning.
“This year, we made the decision to print 800 copies of the [evacuation alert] notice and village staff and crews went door-to-door to 800 homes in Ashcroft, ”she said.
“Everyone here remembers 2017 very clearly,” she continued. “We have certainly learned … unfortunately we now have the opportunity to put this into practice.”
Residents of 50 properties southeast of Ashcroft were ordered to leave their home Wednesday night because of the same fire near Barnes Creek. People living on 117 other properties near Young Lake were also asked to leave for a safer area.
Nearly 200 properties in the Barnes Lake area east of Kamloops are on alert Wednesday.
Regions plagued by poor air quality
Meanwhile, evacuation orders for areas closer to the city of Kamloops are still in effect. Orders cover more than 180 properties in the city, including areas near Savona and Copper Creek.
The responsible blaze, known as the Sparks Lake Fire, covers approximately 402 square kilometers. There were reports of buildings damaged or destroyed by the flames, but the Thompson-Nicola Regional District was unable to verify the damage.
Residents of 41 properties in the Okanagan, west of Peachland, were ordered out before dawn Thursday as the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District said a new fire threatened safety.
To the north, in the Bulkley-Nechako regional district, another evacuation order remains in effect near Fort St. James due to a forest fire near Camsell Lake. It includes the Yekooche First Nation reserves and parts of Rubyrock Lake Provincial Park and Sutherland River Park.
The regional district also issued an evacuation order in connection with the Cutoff Creek wildfire. burning north of Big Bend Arm.
Regional air quality in parts of the interior and around Williams Lake continued to be poor on Thursday. It’s worse in Kamloops, where it is classified as “very high” – which means that strenuous outdoor activities should be avoided.
The only road crossing the Chilcotin region of British Columbia – Highway 20 – remains closed near Anahim Lake.
The blaze, known as the Big Stick Lake blaze, hit the highway on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Ulkatcho First Nation. A Canadian Forces helicopter was dispatched to Anahim Lake Airport on Wednesday to help evacuees leave the area.
North of Lytton in the Fraser Canyon, an order is in place for 17 properties in Gladwin Mobile Home Park and the Jade Springs area east of the village due to the Lytton Creek Forest Fire .
Anyone placed under an evacuation order must leave the area immediately.
Evacuation centers have been set up across the province to help anyone evacuated from a community threatened by a forest fire. To find the center closest to you, visit Emergency management BC. website.
Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency support services online, whether or not they access the services of an evacuation center.