Winds in Cariboo and southern BC expected to increase wildfire activity

Chelsea West
July 16, 2017

"Given the proximity of existing wildfires to communities, infrastructure and transportation corridors, people throughout the Cariboo region and the southern Interior should be prepared for potential evacuations", the government states.

The province is reminding evacuees to register with the Canadian Red Cross and, if they need lodging or food, to register at emergency social services reception centres as well.

In the Cariboo region, about 10,000 people have been evacuated and another 11,000 are on evacuation alerts.

Environment Canada said it expects widespread winds from 20 to 50 km/h to begin Saturday afternoon, with local wind gusts picking up Sunday morning in some valleys and canyons.

Officials are warning there could be five more days of hot and dry conditions.

The BC Wildfire Service said it's taken steps to help ground crews fight some of the fires, by burning a safe perimeter around a 2,600-hectare blaze near 150 Mile House.

"It was refreshing for me to get into Prince George ... and breathe the fresh air instead of the smoke-filled air we are experiencing here in the Cariboo", he said on Friday.

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Hundreds of fire-suppression crews were standing by within an hour of the community and military personnel were ready to assist with mass evacuations, if necessary, he said.

Crews are being commended for not allowing the fire to jump Highway 97. Crews have contained about 60 per cent of the fire but fear it could jump the Fraser River and threaten homes if winds pick up.

"That level of wind certainly has the prospect to really whip up fire behaviour", Skrepnek said. Approximately half of the residents of Williams Lake have already left.

Some staff has already apparently made a decision to leave the region, not waiting on the official evacuation alert to be upgraded to an official order.

Businesses across the central interior say they are being heavily impacted by a lack of tourism and spending.

And that "could cause significant growth of current wildfires", as well as start new fires that could spread.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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