Some B.C. evacuation alerts lifted as rain lowers wildfire danger, but relief not expected to last
Gusty winds expected today, hot temperatures forecast to return later this week
British Columbia's wildfire danger map shows a low to moderate fire risk in much of the province after a rainy weekend, but the extreme risk is expected to resume quickly as another hot spell arrives.
The Ministry of Forests says about 270 wildfires are currently burning, most in the southern Interior, with just eight sparked over the last two days.
One of the most concerning remains the White Rock Lake fire between Kamloops and Okanagan Lake, which has scorched nearly 560 square kilometres, destroyed properties east of Kamloops and forced thousands from their homes.
It is burning in one of two B.C. regions still ranked at high to extreme risk of wildfires, but a damp weekend cut the chance of embers flying across Okanagan Lake, allowing Vernon to lift its evacuation alert, although orders or alerts from three regional districts, two communities and two First Nations are still in place.
Evacuation alerts mean residents must be ready to leave their homes at a moment's notice. Evacuation orders mean residents should leave immediately.
The mayor of Chase, a village threatened by the north flank of the fire, said in a statement that gusty winds are expected in the region Monday, while a B.C. Wildfire Service spokesperson said hot weather forecast for later this week could mean the return of aggressive fire activity.
Challenges finding space
Although the evacuation alert has been lifted for Vernon, the city is still a designated host for those ordered to evacuate from other parts of the Interior.
Tourism in the Okanagan means hotels are booked up, making it hard to find space for evacuees, said Mayor Victor Cumming.
"If we were talking about October or November, [we] would have lots of space," he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.
Hotel owners have been contacting customers with bookings, asking if they can cancel in order to make space for evacuees, he said.
Cumming is encouraging evacuees to try to stay with friends or family if possible, and if they have access to an RV or some other type of accommodation, to use it. He said three schools in Vernon have made parking lots available for RVs, and bylaw officials have been instructed not to ticket or tow anyone parked in the city because they were evacuated.
The province says nearly 6,600 properties remain on evacuation order across B.C., while residents of more than 32,000 properties have been told to be ready to leave on short notice.
Anyone placed under an evacuation order should leave the area immediately.
Evacuation centres have been set up throughout the province to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire. To find the centre closest to you, visit the Emergency Management B.C. website.
Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.
With files from Daybreak South