More than 50 new wildfires have sprung up across British Columbia over the weekend, putting people out of their homes or on evacuation alert, resulting in several communities declaring states of emergency.
Smoke from the fires cast an early morning haze over Vancouver and an eerie pall over Victoria on Sunday. Ash was reported falling on buildings and cars in several areas from Horseshoe Bay to Vancouver.
Three of the new fires are in the Kootenays in southeastern B.C., where an evacuation alert has been issued for about 350 homes along Highway 3A between Sitkum Creek and Willow Point. The 150-hectare lightning-caused fire is visible from the town of Nelson.
Two other fires are also burning in the Kootenays
An evacuation order affecting about 150 people In Kragmont has been issued for the 200-hectare Baynes Lake wildfire near Highway 93 southeast of Cranbrook. The fire is believed to have been caused by lightning as well.
A smaller 50-hectare fire, the Spilmacheen wildfire, is burning north of Highway 95 between Harrogate and Brisco. It could have also been caused by lightning, but officials are still investigating.
An evacuation order in effect for the Huckleberry fire burning in Joe rich east of Kelowna has now been lifted for all but 30 properties. That fire, which had been at 80 hectares, is now completely contained.
Wildfire near Port Hardy
The small town of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island continues to fight a 16-hectare wildfire burning just 1.5 kilometres from the town and less than 300 metres from some homes in the area.
Late Sunday fire officials issued a statement saying the fire was 20 per cent contained. A one hectare spot fire located approximately 400 metres from Port Hardy is 80 percent contained.
Due to the progress, an evacuation order for about 100 homes along Mayors Way and Upper Carnarvon down to Park Drive has been changed to an evacuation alert.. The fire is being fought by ground crews and from the air, officials said.
Residents are being asked to restrict water use to only what is essential.
Boulder Creek wildfire triples in size
This lightning-caused wildfire burning in steep terrain and heavy timber 23 kilometres northeast of Pemberton tripled in size overnight Saturday.
"This fire is displaying a vigorous and aggressive rate of spread, with periods of organized crown fire," the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch said in a statement.
"This type of fire behaviour consumes timber completely through to the tree tops, and has a high potential of spotting ahead of the fire. It also poses a safety risk for ground crews and aircraft conducting fire suppression efforts."
An evacuation order issued midday Saturday for two pumice mines has been expanded to include both sides of the Lillooet Forest Service Road.
A local state of emergency has also been declared. The fire is generating a lot of smoke, visible in Pemberton and surrounding areas.
Another nearby major fire is the 20,000-hectare Elaho fire burning 67 kilometres northwest of Pemberton. It is 60 per cent contained, but is very aggressive and extremely active, according to fire officials.
The Nahatlatch wildfire, estimated at 360 hectares yesterday morning, is now roughly 500 hectares in size.
Sproat Lake fire
Cabins at lake level with boat-only access were evacuated Saturday on Sproat Lake, northwest of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.
The B.C. Wildfire Management Branch says an aggressive 35-hectare fire burning on Dog Mountain is causing debris to roll downhill making the area dangerous. A firefighter reported early Sunday that a large boulder had rolled down the mountain to cabin level.
Firefighters are warning the public the area is active and dangerous and should not be approached by boat or on foot.
Province-wide fire ban
Most of the province has now been declared an extreme fire risk and a province-wide ban on all fires and campfires is in effect.
A Level 4 drought rating is in effect for southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, meaning water supplies are insufficient to meet the needs of communities and ecosystems.
Even traditionally moist Coastal B.C. is at Level 2 and 3 drought conditions on the four-stage drought rating, which means residents are required to try to cut water use by another 20 per cent over regular reductions.
There are more than 70 wildfires greater than 10 hectares burning in B.C., and at least 171 total active wildfires.