British Columbia

Hundreds of firefighters battling largest wildfire ever recorded in B.C.

Hundreds of firefighters and dozens of aircraft are working to contain the largest wildfire ever recorded in British Columbia's history, and it could take weeks to get it under control.

19 wildfires have merged to create massive fire burning in the province's Interior

Tinder dry weather, wind and dry lightning have caused fires to spread aggressively in B.C.'s Cariboo region this season. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

Hundreds of firefighters and dozens of aircraft are working to contain the largest wildfire ever recorded in British Columbia's history.

Nineteen wildfires have merged in the province's Interior, creating a single blaze that's estimated to be more than 467,000 hectares in size, according to fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek with the B.C. Wildfire Service.

The massive Plateau fire, which stretches 130 kilometres from one end to the other, is located on the Chilcotin Plateau, 60 kilometres west of Quesnel and 60 kilometres northwest of Williams Lake.

Skrepnek says crews are making good progress on the fire, but because of its size, it's expected to continue burning for some time.

"Just given the sheer scale of this fire, you know it is going to be active for some time to come and it's going to be quite some time before we would be even close to calling it contained or calling it under control."

The Plateau wildfire is now considered the largest ever recorded in British Columbia history. (B.C. Wildfire Management)

Slow progress despite efforts

The fire was created by the merging of the Chezacut, Tautri, Bishop's Bluff, Baezaeko, Wentworth Creek, Arc Mountain, and other wildfires. The first of those was discovered on July 7 and the cause is listed as "under investigation."

It is now so big the wildfire management branch has set up two incident command teams at the northern and southern ends to co-ordinate the firefighting efforts of more than 400 firefighters, 25 helicopters and dozens of pieces of heavy equipment.

There are no major communities affected by the blaze but several smaller rural communities in the Cariboo region are under evacuation orders.   

INTERACTIVE MAP: Current wildfire boundaries from the B.C. Wildfire Service.

Red means fire of note, orange means active fire and purple means inactive fire. Click on a fire for more details.

Record-breaking fires

Previously, the biggest wildfire in B.C. history was a 220,000 hectare blaze that burned in the northeastern part of the province in 1958.

In comparison, the 2003 wildfire that destroyed 239 homes near the Okanagan city of Kelowna was just under 26,000 hectares in size.

Alberta's Fort McMurray fire of 2016, which destroyed 2,400 buildings and homes, burned nearly 590,000 hectares.

The single largest recorded fire in North American history was the Chinchaga fire of 1950, which burned up to 1,700,000 hectares in both northern British Columbia and Alberta.

There have been 1,031 fires in the province since April 1, burning over 900,000 hectares of land, and making 2017 the worst wildfire season on record.  The previous record was set in 1958, when 855,000 hectares burned.

Last week the B.C. government extended the state of emergency covering the entire province until Sept. 1.

Google Maps: Williams Lake, B.C.