Evacuations ordered in B.C. as more than 100 new wildfires burn
The number of forest fires in British Columbia has nearly doubled and some of the blazes are so close to homes that evacuations have been ordered.
Kevin Skrepnek, chief fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, said 115 new fires started on Monday, bringing the total number burning in the province to 266.
Skrepnek said “the vast majority” of the new fires were started by lightning. He said 17 of the 266 blazes are “major fires” and that nine evacuation alerts and orders are in place.
An evacuation alert requires residents to prepare to leave on short notice; an evacuation order means they are required to leave immediately.
An evacuation order was issued early Tuesday morning for about 70 homes on the west side of Okanagan Lake, in the community of West Kelowna.
Fire Information Officer Dale Bojara said Tuesday afternoon that the “aggressively moving” fire had reached an estimated 430 hectares in size, and that there was “very little containment.”
The good news for residents, Bojara said, was that the fire had been moving away from the homes.
An evacuation order was also issued for the area surrounding Bolean Lake, southwest of Salmon Arm, due to a 300-hectare fire. That order impacts about 24 properties.
Meanwhile, residents of 28 homes near Ashcroft were issued an evacuation alert.
Skrepnek said the fire season started early in B.C. and hasn’t let up. He said an estimated 294,000 hectares has burned in 2015 already, compared to 316,000 hectares in all of 2014.
More than 100 firefighters have been flown in from Ontario, local contractors have been hired to help and Australian firefighters arrived last week to provide relief, according to Skrepnek.
Saskatchewan has also experienced a busier-than-usual wildfire season. Several thousand residents were cleared to return home to northern Saskatchewan over the weekend, although more than 100 fires continue to burn there.
With files from The Canadian Press