British Columbia

B.C. firefighters hold back Cariboo wildfire

Firefighters in the Cariboo region of B.C. say they managed to stop a wildfire from crossing the Fraser River near Williams Lake, but the danger of the fire jumping the river has yet to subside.

Firefighters in the Cariboo region of B.C. say they managed to stop a wildfire from crossing the Fraser River near Williams Lake, but the danger of the fire jumping the river has yet to subside.

Wind gusts reached speeds of 70 kilometres an hour overnight Wednesday as a storm front passing over the Central Interior of B.C. and fires in the region grew quickly overnight.

Fire lines managed to keep the blaze away from communities in the region, said the provincial fire information officer Radha Fisher.

"We know that our critical lines held," Fisher said. "We know that it didn't cross the Fraser River. That's the good news, and we know that today will be busy."

More wind is forecast, however, and Fisher says there is still concern for Williams Lake, which has so far been protected from fire by the Fraser River, because burning embers can carry the fire long distances though the air.

"There is spotting potential of up to two kilometres, so there is a good chance that the fire can spot over the river," she said. "That's our concern; that's why these winds were so concerning for us.

"Right now, we've gotten through what you could call the worst, but it's not over. We do have a windy day ahead of us, and there is some spotting concern, especially if the fires are active today."

Evacuation orders remain in effect for 1,200 people in the Cariboo region, and another 1,700 are on evacuation alert. Some fire crews were pulled out of the forest on Wednesday because of the aggressive spread of the flames, said Fisher.

Thick smoke continues to challenge firefighting efforts in the area, but so far, it has not grounded aerial water tankers. The smoke is also creating problems for residents, particularly those with respiratory conditions.

Across B.C., there are more than 270 fires burning and more than 70 per cent of the province is rated at extreme or high fire risk after six weeks of hot dry weather.