British Columbia

Evacuation orders issued as dozens of wildfires burn across B.C.

A new evacuation order in British Columbia's Cariboo District has been issued for homes around Deka Lake, affecting up to 700 people in the area as wildfires burn across the province Thursday. 

Lightning, wind and hot temperatures forecast to continue Thursday

The Merry Creek Wildfire near Castlegar is one of many wildfires burning across B.C. on Thursday. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

A new evacuation order in British Columbia's Cariboo region has been issued for homes around Deka Lake, affecting up to 700 people in the area, as wildfires burn across the province Thursday. 

The Cariboo Regional District issued an evacuation alert Wednesday night warning people in the area to be prepared to leave at a moment's notice. The notice was upgraded to an order Thursday afternoon.

"This fire in particular has grown quite large from when it started last night," said Chris Keam, an information officer with the Cariboo Regional District. 

Everyone in the evacuation area was told to leave immediately, and that they should take Highway 24 to 100 Mile House where they can register at the South Cariboo Recreation Centre. 

The Sparks Lake wildfire, 15 kilometres northwest of Kamloops Lake, is now an estimated 200 square kilometres in size and has forced the evacuation of more than 400 homes.

There are 89 firefighters on site fighting the blaze, as well as 13 helicopters and 16 pieces of heavy equipment.

On Friday night, the fire inched close to the Skeetchestn Indian Band, resulting in the original evacuation alert put in place Wednesday being upgraded to an evacuation order.

In a statement, the emergency operations team working on the fire says everyone in the area needs to evacuate by 9 a.m. PT Saturday. They say the decision is to allow for ample time to conduct a safe evacuation.

The evacuation affects up to 298 homes.

Another wildfire just outside of Kamloops, near Durand Lake, caused the evacuation of 166 properties on Friday night. Earlier in the day, Kamloops announced it was reactivating its Emergency Operations Centre in support of multiple fires flaring up in the area. 

Another 153 properties were put on evacuation alert at nearby Sulphurous Lake.

According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, there are 82 wildfires burning across the province Thursday, with 52 of them starting in the past 48 hours. Lightning strikes, gusty winds and high temperatures have contributed to already intense conditions. 

The wildfires include a fire that forced the entire village of Lytton, B.C., to evacuate at a moment's notice on Wednesday evening. 

The wildfire service says the Deka Lake fire was caused by lightning Wednesday evening, and it is currently estimated to be about 70 hectares. 

Extreme fire risk

B.C. Premier John Horgan says there were 29,000 lightning strikes in B.C. Wednesday night alone. 

"I cannot stress enough how extreme the fire risk is at this moment in every part of British Columbia," Horgan said at a media briefing Thursday afternoon. 

Horgan said B.C. has asked for more resources from the federal government. 

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the wildfire situation may require a provincial state of emergency. 

"This has been a very difficult day and the days ahead are going to continue to challenge us," Farnworth said.

The Sparks Lake wildfire, 15 kilometres northwest of Kamloops, covered an estimated 200 square kilometres as of Thursday morning. (MLAZZ Creative by Matt Lazzarotto)

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan said the Canadian Armed Forces have made their helicopters and tactical airlift available. 

"What we want to do is [make] sure that all the support that's needed is going to be there," Sajjan told Canada Tonight host Hannah Thibedeau. 

Sajjan also expressed his condolences and federal support for Lytton. 

Dozens of fires across the province

The wildfires continue to require resources from the B.C. Wildfire Service and fire departments throughout the province. 

Near Castlegar, the Merry Creek fire is estimated at seven hectares but is only eight kilometres southwest of town. 

An evacuation order was issued for some homes in the Kinnaird neighbourhood of the Kootenay city, as well as the Castleview Care Centre, but was later rescinded. An evacuation order still remains in place for some streets just outside the town boundaries. 

The B.C. Wildfire Service says the fire appears to have been human caused. 

The wildfire service said the weather to date has been unprecedented, with temperatures hitting the mid-40s on Wednesday.

Not far away, the Mckay Creek fire burning 23 kilometres north of Lillooet has grown to an estimated 150 square kilometres and is classified as out of control. There are 24 firefighters on scene, along with four helicopters and five pieces of heavy equipment, and several properties have been evacuated.

In the north of the province, the Beatton River wildfire, suspected to be caused by lightning, has grown to 40 square kilometres since Monday, and is deemed out of control. 

In B.C.'s Peace region, an evacuation order has been revised and reduced in relation to a fire in the Pink Mountain area of B.C.'s Peace region. The fire, north of the Buckinghorse River next to Highway 97C, is currently listed at 48 square kilometres and was sparked by lightning.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe says thousands of lightning strikes accompanied intense thunderstorms in central and northern B.C. on Wednesday night, with little rain and gusty winds. Dozens of fires were started by lightning strikes in the Cariboo region. 

More thunderstorms are predicted across B.C. on Thursday, particularly in the southern Interior, where temperatures are expected to climb to the mid to high 30s. 

Wind gusts of up to 80 km/h will accompany those storms, according to Environment Canada.

Anyone placed under an evacuation order must leave the area immediately. 

Evacuation centres have been set up in the following locations to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire: 

  • Castlegar: Castlegar Community Complex, 2102 6th Ave.
  • Chilliwack: Chilliwack Senior Secondary, 46363 Yale Rd.
  • Kelowna: Salvation Army, 1480 Sutherland Ave.
  • Merritt: Merritt Civic Centre, 1950 Mamette Ave.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.

Those looking for loved ones can contact the Canadian Red Cross for family reunification services at 1-800-863-6582.


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