What you need to know about B.C. wildfires for Aug. 20
Updated figures show 2021 is now B.C.'s 3rd worst wildfire season on record in terms of area burned
The latest on the wildfires:
- More than 8,580 square kilometres of B.C. has burned so far in 2021, the third highest such number on record.
- Officials are warning that fatigue is setting in for firefighters after a long summer on the front lines.
- As of Thursday evening, 75 evacuation orders remained in effect for 4,951 properties, along with 118 evacuation alerts covering 19,653 properties.
- Cooler and wetter weather continue to provide relief, but some parts of B.C. are already drying out again.
- For a full list of evacuation orders and alerts, visit Emergency Information B.C.
A long summer battling dangerous and destructive wildfires is starting to take its toll on B.C. firefighters.
In a briefing on Thursday, Todd Nessman, the manager of fire operations for the B.C. Wildfire Service, said he's seeing "increased fatigue" among firefighting crews, and that's leading to "more slips, trips, falls as well as more serious occurrences."
Nessman said officials are keeping an eye out for staff who need more help or additional time off, but so far, there haven't been any "significant" injuries or accidents related to fatigue.
It is now officially the third most destructive wildfire season on record in the province, after updated statistics showed more than 8,580 square kilometres of land has been burned so far in 2021, more than the 1958 season in which nearly 8,560 square kilometres was lost.
The worst wildfire seasons in B.C.'s history were 2018 (nearly 13,550 square kilometres burned) and 2017 (more than 12,160 square kilometres).
Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the B.C. government is sparing no expense when it comes to fighting wildfires.
"We spend what we have to spend," Farnworth said. "Money is not the issue."
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On Thursday, crews continued to see some relief from extreme fire activity following cooler and wetter weather in recent weeks, but Farnworth warned "We're nowhere near out of the woods."
Indeed, fire officials said they're seeing dangerous fire behaviour within the Cariboo Fire Centre and the South Okanagan.
Hannah Swift, the fire information officer for the destructive White Rock Lake wildfire in the southern Interior, said Thursday that some areas affected by the blaze continue to experience severe drought conditions.
"Each day it is getting drier and drier since we've received that rain on Monday," she said.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCWildfire?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BCWildfire</a> Service is responding to the Mt. Hayes wildfire (V62669) 4.5 kilometres northwest of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ladysmith?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Ladysmith</a>. This highly visible fire has spread to an estimated 20 hectares in size since it started early this afternoon. <a href="https://t.co/ZOHp2PztwV">pic.twitter.com/ZOHp2PztwV</a>—@BCGovFireInfo
On Vancouver Island, where the 2021 fire season has been relatively quiet, firefighters were called out to a new blaze to the northwest of Ladysmith on Thursday afternoon, which quickly spread to 0.2 square kilometres in size. The B.C. Wildfire Service said the fire was highly visible from nearby communities, and crews planned to work through the night.
- Aviation safety experts agree it would be harrowing for passengers to be caught in wildfire smoke like the kind that enveloped a B.C. flight on Sunday, but said commercial pilots are trained and equipped to handle the extreme turbulence and land safely.
- Kelowna business owners are holding their breath as the double whammy of wildfires and COVID-19 crushes the tourist season.
- Adrian Chivers made a harrowing journey from B.C.'s Lower Mainland up a fiery Coquihalla Highway Sunday evening to help his uncle relocate livestock to Merritt at the height of the wildfires.
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.
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With files from Bethany Lindsay, Akshay Kulkarni and The Canadian Press