Residents living to the west of Quesnel, B.C. are preparing for a possible city-wide evacuation as wildfires continue to rage nearby.
Thousands of people living west of the city are under evacuation alert, while 90 people and more than 900 properties in the area two hours northwest of the city were evacuated on Saturday.
The Cariboo Regional District said no properties east of the Fraser River are on evacuation alert.
Quesnel Fire Chief Sylvain Gauthier said local officials are preparing for a full-scale evacuation in case the fires push eastwards, reserving buses in Prince George — an hour’s drive north — for residents who don’t have access to a vehicle.
Gauthier said Northern Health has been told to prepare to evacuate the local hospital as well.
Evacuees who have already left Cariboo region have been sent to Prince George, which has set up an Emergency Response Centre as well as a website for arriving evacuees.
Evacuations in north central B.C.
More evacuation orders and alerts are in effect for an area of north-central British Columbia that is nearly surrounded by forest fires.
The 35-kilometre stretch of land under evacuation order is west of the community of Fort St. James, in a mostly rural area, while an expanded evacuation alert includes several properties near the district municipality’s western edge.
Bill Miller, board chair for the Bulkley-Nechako region, says they’ve been lucky with the most recent expansion of the evacuation area. No properties or families in the area have been forced out in a zone that is predominantly camping and recreational sites.
However, he says if the fires continue to burn eastwards they’ll begin to affect residents in Fort St. James and they need to be prepared to leave immediately if the alert is upgraded to an order.
He says it’s been a difficult week and it’s unlikely to get better next week, with no rain in the forecast for another ten days.
When he left work in Burns Lake on Saturday afternoon, Miller says the smoke from the fires had darkened the skies so much it seemed as if the sun had already set.
Watching the weather
Sunday’s weather forecast called for more hot, dry weather along with gusting winds, which could fan the flames.
The B.C. Wildfire Service said 145 new fires started Saturday, largely due to widespread lightning, bringing the province-wide total to nearly 600.
On Sunday, air quality in the Okanagan and West Kootenay areas was rated a “very high” health risk due to wildfire smoke.
Kamloops, Williams Lake and the North Okanagan have ratings of above 10, meaning children and the elderly are at risk of health complications. People in those areas are advised to avoid strenuous activity.
The air quality is so bad in #Kamloops @GoTRUWolfPack has cancelled their noon soccer game. The health messaging is to avoid strenuous activity outdoors until the air improves. A hard day for the @KamRibfest fundraiser. Hope the wind picks up soon. pic.twitter.com/aTDtUk5epP
Soccer games at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops were cancelled due to the smoke on Sunday afternoon.
The rest of the Okanagan is at a 10 rating, while Castlegar has been assigned a “high” risk of 7.
Additional fire information
- Previous evacuations have been rescinded in relation to the Nanaimo Lakes fire burning 13 kilometres southwest of Nanaimo. The fire is considered 40 per cent contained.
- An evacuation order has been issued for the Murray Lake area due to the Juliet Creek fire burning approximately 47 kilometres southwest of Merritt. The fire is 600 hectares in size.
- The Mabel Creek wildfire, 6.5 kilometres east of Mabel Lake in B.C.’s Interior, has grown considerably in size joining up with several smaller fires. It is now 1,861 hectares in size.
- The Blazed Creek wildfire, located 26 kilometres northwest of Creston, also grew considerably due to recent weather conditions. The fire is currently 3,100 hectares in size.
- Crews are still actively fighting the Alkali Lake fire near Telegraph in the province’s northwest region. The South Stikine River fire has merged with this one and its combined size is 311 square kilometres.
- Crews have shut down Highway 7 intermittently to access the High Creek wildfire near Agassiz. That fire, believed to be human-caused, is now 120 hectares in size.
- 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 in place due to unseasonably dry and hot conditions.
Evacuation orders and alerts:
With files from the Canadian Press, Jon Hernandez and Nicole Oud