Potentially dangerous wildfires continue to grow across British Columbia in a fire season that’s worse than average.
And forecasts of lower temperatures could bring cold comfort for firefighters as accompanying winds may spread the flames even more.
Kevin Skrepnek with B.C.’s Wildfire Service says there are 472 active wildfires burning throughout the province — more than 30 of those considered fires of note because they are highly visible or threaten homes.
“We’ve got what we call fires of note in all six of our regional fire centres so really from one corner of B.C. to another,” Skrepnek said.
The fire near Telegraph Creek in northwest B.C. remains the province’s largest, currently 300 square kilometres in size.
Dozens of properties around the community have been damaged or destroyed and, at B.C.’s request, the Yukon government is to open a reception centre today in Whitehorse. Officials ask evacuees to register there for emergency social services.
Although Whitehorse is more than 600 kilometres to the northwest of the fire, it’s where many of the Telegraph Creek evacuees have gathered.
Higher than average fire season
Compared to a 10-year period, there are 1,500 fires so far this season when the average number would be 1,100, Skrepnek said.
“We’ve had — as of this morning — an estimated 188,000 hectares burned,” Skrepnek said. “The average for this time of year is about 158,000.”
But it still doesn’t compare to 2017: by this time last year, we had burned over 600,000 hectares.
Fires across the province
Because the fires are spread across the province, Skrepnek says finding crews to fight the fires has been challenging.
“We’re typically quite nimble with our resourcing in terms of moving crews from one fire resource centre to another wherever the needs are greatest,” he said. “That’s definitely being stretched right now given [every region is] very, very busy at the moment and they’re at their highest levels of preparedness.”
He says crews have pitched in from the forest industry, outside the province and outside of the country including New Zealand, Australia and Mexico.
Weekend weather could prove challenging
Environment Canada says heat warnings in many parts of B.C. should be lifted as a cold front arrives, but that front will carry gusty winds that could kick up the flames.
“That is going to inform some of the tactics we are implementing on the ground in terms of how these fires can grow and what direction they can grow in,” he said.
Even though there is some rain in the forecast, it is expected to be patchy and scattered with the possibility of lightning — which could spark more fire. Unfortunately the central and northern parts of the province, which has a number of large, intensive fires, are expected to remain relatively dry.
“We are bracing for the next few days to be pretty critical depending on how that pans out,” Skrepnek said.
Additional fire information
- The Snowy Mountain wildfire near Keremeos is 122 square kilometres in size. Crews are being rotated in to provide 24-hour coverage.
- The Verdun Mountain wildfire has grown to 11 square kilometres. On Thursday, the Bulkley-Nechako Regional District expanded the evacuation order related to the blaze.
- The Nadina Lake wildfire burning about 60 kilometres south of Houston is now 150 square kilometres in size. Regional officials expanded the related evacuation order and alert on Thursday.
- The Shovel Lake wildfire, 30 kilometres northeast of Burns Lake, is 165 square kilometres. There is an expanded evacuation order and alert issued by the Bulkley-Nechako Regional District.
- The High Creek wildfire between Hope and Agassiz is 50 hectares in size. Crews are building helipads to get helicopters closer to the fire.
- The fire at Horseshoe Bay on the Sea-to-Sky Highway continues to burn. Crews have it 50-per-cent contained as of this morning.
- All regional parks in Metro Vancouver are under an extreme fire danger rating. Campfires and barbecues are prohibited.
- The campfire ban across most of the province remains due to unseasonably dry and hot conditions.
Evacuation orders and alerts:
With files from the Canadian Press