After five days of battling hundreds of wildfires burning across the province, the BC Wildfire Service says rain in the Prince George area Saturday night gave crews some reprieve, but more is needed to fight hot, windy conditions on Sunday.
“Unfortunately, we are expecting another lightning event to move through areas of the southern interior,” said B.C. provincial fire information officer Jean Strong, “and if we see that … I would expect to see more ignitions.”
Over the last 24 hours, Strong said wildfires continued to burn in the Kamloops, Prince George, and Cariboo regions with the largest fire located 15 kilometres north of Kamloops Lake.
She said there are more than 170 active fires in B.C. and 13 of them are being closely monitored, as they could potentially pose a threat to public safety. Additionally, there are fires burning near Lillooet, Cache Creek, 100 Mile House, Prince George and other smaller communities.
Hot, dry conditions are now coming to B.C. earlier in the season than what is historically normal, Strong said. “That big heat wave at the end of the month dried out those fuels about a month earlier [than usual].”
Bill Blair, the federal minister of of public safety and emergency preparedness, said in a pair of tweets Sunday that the Canadian Armed Forces will provide air support for areas affected by wildfires until July 19.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/CanadianForces?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CanadianForces</a> will provide air support to help regions affected by the wildfires until July 19, 2021.
‘Significant growth’ overnight
Although rain helped dampen three significant wildfires, Strong said lightning is the suspected cause of three new wildfires overnight.
Meanwhile, despite efforts from firefighters near Kamloops, Strong said the Sparks Lake fire is continuing to grow.
“The Sparks Lake fire, which is our biggest fire we have at this moment, is estimated at 36,000 hectares … and crews do remain working on that fire 24 hours a day,” she said.
According to a written statement from the Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD) , the fire also triggered an evacuation order for two properties located in the vicinity of Sparks Lake on Sunday and an evacuation alert for 119 properties in the Sabiston Lake area.
In Lytton, Strong said fire crews will continue to focus on the northeast and northwest side of the fire on Sunday. They were able to control the fire on the west side of the Fraser River by Saturday night.
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There are four wildfires of note in the Cariboo region, Strong said; the two fires that are most concerning are north of Big Stick Lake and Churn Creek.
The Big Stick Lake fire is estimated at 70 hectares in size and residents nearby are being asked to prepare to leave at any moment’s notice. According to the BC Wildfire Service, crews continued to build a fuel-free guard around the fire on Sunday.
An evacuation alert has also been issued for two properties near the Churn Creek fire. Estimated at 700 hectares in size, Strong said crews will work on conducting a controlled burn on Sunday to help prevent further spread.
Anyone placed under an evacuation order must leave the area immediately.
Evacuation centres have been set up in the following locations to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire:
- Castlegar: Castlegar Community Complex, 2102 6th Ave.
- Chilliwack: Chilliwack Senior Secondary, 46363 Yale Rd.
- Kelowna: Salvation Army, 1480 Sutherland Ave.
- Merritt: Merritt Civic Centre, 1950 Mamette Ave.
Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre. Those unable to access the online registration can call the Emergency Support Services registration at 1-800-585-9559.
Those looking for loved ones can contact the Canadian Red Cross for family reunification services at 1-800-863-6582.