British Columbia

What you need to know about B.C. wildfires for Aug. 22

Cooler temperatures and rain in British Columbia’s Interior are expected to help calm wildfires on Sunday, but officials warn none of the province’s blazes will be doused overnight.

Cooler temperatures and rain expected to help on Sunday, but end of wildfire season still not in sight

An aerial picture of the Mt. Hayes wildfire on Vancouver Island, northwest of Ladysmith, on August 21, 2021. (B.C. Wildfire Service/Twitter)

The latest on the wildfires:

  • 1,537 fires have been recorded so far this season, with 248 fires currently burning in B.C.
  • 8,600 square kilometres of land has been scorched by fires thus far, the third most on record.
  • The most concerning fires remain burning in the province's Interior, near the Kamloops Fire Centre.
  • Rain is expected to continue falling on the biggest wildfires on Sunday, aiding firefighters.
  • For a full list of evacuation orders and alerts, visit Emergency Information B.C.

Cooler temperatures and rain in British Columbia's Interior are expected to help calm wildfires on Sunday, but officials warn none of the province's blazes will be doused overnight.

Fire Information Officer Taylor Colman said of the 248 active wildfires in the province, 27 are wildfires of note — because of their size or because they're posing a threat to public safety. 

Colman said many evacuation orders had been downgraded over the weekend, although many were still in place. 

"Things are still very active but definitely slowing down a little bit with assistance from the weather," Colman said, adding that the forecast calls for below-seasonal temperatures this week.  

"We're on the right track and starting to see the wildfire situation improving."

Colman said many of B.C.'s firefighters are students and will be returning to school in September, but as conditions improve in other areas of Canada, crews from outside the province will be more available. 

The province has extended the contracts for firefighters from Mexico for another two weeks, Colman said, and crews from Australia will be in B.C. for another week. 

Early start to fire season

The wildfire season started earlier than usual in B.C. this year, with a punishing provincewide drought and a lack of rain in June and July leading to an especially intense wildfire season that is expected to last into the fall.

On Friday, 2021's season officially became the third most destructive on record in terms of area burned, with updated figures on Saturday afternoon showing 8,600 square kilometres of forest had been lost.

On Saturday, improving conditions saw evacuation alerts and orders get rescinded throughout B.C.

One of the most prominent alerts to get lifted on Saturday afternoon was that for the City of Merritt, with orders also being downgraded to alerts late Friday for more than 650 properties west of Merritt.

Evacuation alerts mean residents must be ready to leave their homes at a moment's notice. An evacuation order means residents should leave immediately.

  • We're answering your questions about climate change and the federal election. Send yours to ask@cbc.ca, and we'll answer as many as we can leading up to election day. 

READ MORE:

  • A Lower Mainland-based cat rescue society helped find homes for 130 cats displaced by fires burning near Merritt in the Interior.
  • Backcountry enthusiasts are noticing, first hand, the effects of climate change as wildfires, heat waves and flooding forced over 30 provincial parks to shut their doors this summer.
  • Elections Canada says it is already preparing for contingency plans as voting in next month's federal election continues to be a concern for wildfire evacuees.

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.


Do you have a story to share?

If you've been affected by the B.C. wildfires and want to share your story, email us at cbcnewsvancouver@cbc.ca.

With files from Christina Jung and Akshay Kulkarni

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