British Columbia

1 dead after ignoring B.C. evacuation order

One person has died and another is seriously injured after ignoring an evacuation order due to a wildfire in B.C.'s Cariboo region.

Wildfires burn throughout province

The Jade wildfire near Lillooet has been burning since July 21 and has scorched an estimated 1,500 hectares. (B.C. Wildfire Management Branch/Stock)
One person was killed and another seriously injured after ignoring an evacuation order due to a wildfire in B.C.'s Cariboo region.

RCMP said a 52-year-old Quesnel man died when he was struck by a tree while he was cutting trees for firewood.

Police said the couple left their property on Sunday after learning of the evacuation order, but instead of immediately leaving the evacuation zone, they decided to stop on Crown land adjacent to their property to cut firewood.

"This incident is clearly tragic. While it was not specifically linked to the fire situation, it required first responders to enter an evacuation area to deal with the matter," the RCMP said in a release.

"When persons are served an evacuation order, or become aware of their being in an evacuation area, they should leave immediately by the most direct, but safe, route possible," police said.

Police and fire officials did not provide any details of the second incident in which a person was injured.

"These people were still within the evacuation area," said Shelly Burich, who speaks for the Cariboo Regional District emergency operations centre.

"When there is an evacuation order in place, there is limited access to emergency vehicles and emergency services. When they're under an evacuation order, those roads are closed, so that doesn't allow anybody to come in and be able to help them."

Officials say at least 53 people in the area are refusing to leave, despite the two fires burning in the area.

They are reminding the public that evacuation orders are only implemented in the case of imminent danger and should be taken seriously.

The two fires, which have scorched 3,000 hectares, are both believed to have been started by lightning.

Two air tanker pilots were killed over the weekend when their plane crashed while fighting a forest fire near Lytton.

Crews battling more than 370 fires

Dozens of new fires were reported over the weekend in B.C. as more than 370 wildfires continue to burn across the province.

B.C. crews are working to douse hundreds of wildfires. ((Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press))
Fire information officer Kim Steinbart said the tinder-dry conditions coupled with hot temperatures are making things difficult for firefighters.

"The dry conditions are certainly posing a challenge," she said.

"We now have very smoky skies and, in some cases, some winds … that are picking up and fanning the flames as well, so all of those are really posing challenges to firefighters.… Their safety is our No. 1 priority right now and we are taking any action we can on those fires provided it's safe to do so."

Steinbart said crews are working to build fire guards around blazes threatening homes and other buildings.

"They're trying to build guards a distance from the fire's edge so that when it reaches that part it will hopefully not be able to cross there," she said.

"They're doing that in the areas that are closest to structures, communities, or other prioritized values so they can try and protect those."

Unfortunately, the situation across B.C. isn't expected to improve anytime soon.

Greg Pearce of Environment Canada says the forecast calls for more hot, dry conditions, and even the possible storms on the horizon won't be much help. 

"We will see some shower activity across the southern Interior but there'll be some lightning with that," he said.

"It's kind of a catch-22 — some of the rain may help but the lightning is liable to set off more fires."

Pearce said it's not likely much rain will fall on any of the affected regions until next weekend at the earliest. 

Evacuation orders, alerts in effect

Evacuation orders have been issued for people living in several areas in the Kamloops area and Cariboo region as a result of the wildfires.

Evacuation orders are in place for the following areas:

  • Pelican Lake, 75 kilometres west of Quesnel.
  • Dog Creek Indian Reserve No. 2, 40 km south of Williams Lake.
  • Riske Creek Military Base, 50 km southwest of Williams Lake.
  • Meldrum Creek, 15 km west of Williams Lake.

Evacuation alerts are in place for the following areas:

  • Dog Creek Indian Reserve No. 1, 40 km south of Williams Lake.
  • Tatuk Lake, 55 km south of Vanderhoof.
  • Bayliff Road near Alexis Creek.
  • Jade Mine Road, Yalakom Valley, near Lillooet.
  • East side of Bonaparte Lake, north of Kamloops.