British Columbia

B.C.'s wildfire service battles 77 new fires over weekend, local state of emergency declared

B.C.'s wildfire service says it has been responding to multiple new fires of note in the last 24 hours with several growing in size on Sunday. The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen declared a local state of emergency on Sunday evening.

There are more than 300 active wildfires burning across the province

B.C.'s wildfire service says the Thomas Creek Wildfire near Skaha Lake is one of many fires classified as "out of control" in the province on Sunday. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

British Columbia's wildfire service is responding to multiple new fires of note in the last 24 hours, with several growing in size on Sunday.

"Last night, there was a fair bit of thunder showers through the Prince George and Cariboo Fire Centres," said fire information officer Taylor Colman. The conditions led to several new fires on Sunday, some of which grew quickly.

There are currently more than 300 active fires across the province; 77 of them started over the weekend. As of Sunday, crews are keeping a close watch on 25 fires of note, which are fires that could potentially pose a threat to public safety.

Colman said the fires in the southern region of British Columbia remain stable, but hot, dry conditions continue to persist there, and the agency isn't expecting temperatures to cool down until Thursday.

Sunday afternoon, Environment Canada issued a heat warning for parts of the B.C. Interior, including the 100 Mile, Cariboo, Fraser Canyon and South Thompson regions. 

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Daytime highs in those areas are expected to reach 38 C from Monday to Wednesday. 

On Sunday evening, officials with the Regional District of the Okanagan-Similkameen issued an evacuation order for dozens of properties near Skaha Lake due to the Thomas Creek fire, which over the day grew to an estimated 500 hectares. The wildfire service says that blaze is currently out of control. 

Skaha Lake is 10 kilometres south of Penticton in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley.

The evacuation order near Skaha Lake was rescinded to an alert on Monday afternoon but the fire is still deemed "out of control."

On Sunday, the regional district declared a local state of emergency and an evacuation alert for 600 properties east of Skaha Lake, south of the Heritage Hills area, which is a third of way down the lake south of Penticton.

Meanwhile, residents in the District of Coldstream near Vernon, B.C., are breathing a sigh of relief as evacuation alerts in the area were rescinded Sunday morning.

On Saturday, crews successfully held back the blaze on Clerke Road, which prompted the district to rescind the tactical evacuation order and allow residents to return home.

Another fire in Vernon, closer to the community near Becker Lake, is currently classified as "out of control."

The fire is visible from town and the surrounding areas, according to fire information officer Aydan Coray, and the cause has not yet been determined.

Other evacuation orders, alerts

Colman said the Succour Lake fire, located in the Cariboo fire region, was sparked by lightning on Thursday but became a wildfire of note on Saturday due to the increased visibility from the surrounding communities.

"It's not threatening structures, but it has grown," she said.

Meanwhile, an evacuation order remains in place for 132 properties near the Embelton Mountain wildfire on Sunday. 

The fire, burning near the Sun Peaks ski resort northeast of Kamloops, was sparked on Thursday and has grown to 143 hectares in size. Wildfire officials say the blaze is still "out of control" and aggressive, and the cause is still under investigation.

An evacuation order also remains for properties in a remote area nearly 300 kilometres west of Williams Lake. 

It's in relation to the North of Big Stick Lake fire, which started on July 2. Wildfire officials say the fire is 72 hectares in size and wind is fanning the flames.

Firefighters working on the ground have had to pull out on Saturday for safety reasons, according to the wildfire service.

Province to match donations

To help people who have been affected by the wildfires, the province announced on Sunday it will match all donations to the Canadian Red Cross.

"This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us what we can do when we work together, and this is another chance for us to do that," B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in a written news release.

The provincial government will match up to $20 million in donations received since July 3, when the Red Cross's British Columbia Fires Appeal began.

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"The province continues to support evacuees through Emergency Support Services. By matching Red Cross contributions, donations will go even further to aid community recovery and the Red Cross's critical work on the ground," he said.

The federal government is also supporting the Canadian Red Cross campaign in B.C. by matching contributions.

"The Government of Canada is, and will continue to be, a strong and active partner to assist people and communities affected by the wildfires in British Columbia," said Bill Blair, minister of public safety and emergency preparedness.

Donations — which can be made online or through the local Canadian Red Cross office — will need to be specifically provided to the British Columbia Fires Appeal fund for the province to match them.