British Columbia

What you need to know about B.C. wildfires for Aug. 14

The province says the next 72 hours will be critical, and residents in fire zones should be prepared for more evacuation orders and alerts.

Powerful winds are expected to make the wildfire situation worse this weekend

The current wildfire situation in B.C. is expected to worsen over the weekend, says the B.C. Wildfire Service. (B.C. Wildfire Service/Twitter)

The latest evacuation orders and alerts:

Weekend winds forecast to fan flames

Powerful winds are expected to make the wildfire situation in B.C. worse this weekend. Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations for the B.C. Wildfire Service, says forecasters are predicting winds up to 30 kilometres per hour on Saturday and double that on Sunday, fanning the flames of some of British Columbia's largest fires.

Chapman says if the winds arrive, they have the potential to create significant fire growth in forests baked dry by the heat waves of the past few days. 

"If these winds arrive, they will drive aggressive fire behaviour," Chapman said. 

There are more than 270 wildfires burning in the province. More than 6,300 properties have been evacuated because of the threat of a fire, while residents in nearly 28,000 properties have been placed on evacuation alert to be ready to leave.

More than 1,499 wildfires have been started since April 1, burning more than 6,000 square kilometres.

Residents urged to follow evacuation orders

On Saturday, a new evacuation order was issued for 22 properties south of Lytton, which was destroyed by a fire earlier this summer. 

John Stoesser, information officer for the Lytton complex fire, said the Mowhokam Fire has moved downslope and is now 40 square kilometres in size. 

"We want to give people the ability to get out of harm's way quickly without having to do evacuations in a rush," Stoesser said.

The same fire prompted the Kanaka Indian Band to issue evacuation orders for nine properties and 10 apartments on their reserve. 

Another evacuation order was put in place for four properties in the Cutoff Creek Wildfire area in the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako on Saturday. 

Also on Saturday, Interior Health said it would proactively relocate long-term care home residents at Fischer Place and Mill Site Lodge in 100 Mile House because of nearby wildfire activity in the Thompson-Cariboo region.

The health authority said they would be temporarily relocated to Williams Lake and the Fraser Health region. 

The Tremont Creek wildfire, 411 square kilometres in size, led to the evacuation of the community of Logan Lake, north of Merritt, on Thursday night. Hundreds of people scrambled to leave the community, though some remained

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said those who are asked to leave their properties need to do so, or risk endangering the lives of firefighters and first responders.

"Evacuation orders are put in place to protect lives,'' he said. "When people ignore that, then what often happens ... is firefighters can be diverted from fighting fires to rescue them."

The 'most challenging summer': firefighter

Fire crews themselves are asking for patience and kindness after residents of some communities expressed criticism of the actions or inactions of the service. 

Kyle Young, an incident commander with the B.C. Wildfire Service, posted an emotional Twitter thread on the services' account Friday night describing this year as the "most challenging summer" in his 16-year firefighting career. 

Kyle Young, an incident commander with the B.C. Wildfire Service, commented in an emotional social media post that this year has been particularly difficult due to the lack of resources due to wildfires across the continent and the challenges of the pandemic. (B.C. Wildfire Service/Twitter)

"We aren't getting the resources we usually would from other jurisdictions due to the immense fire danger across Canada and the United States," Young tweeted.

"At the end of each grueling day, I wonder if everyone is okay. Not only on the incident I'm managing, but those working on other incidents, along with those deeply affected by the devastating wildfires. I wonder if I could have done something different, something better."

The Kamloops-based firefighter ended by urging British Columbians "to come together and support each other."

Tourists asked to stay away

In an unusual move, Farnworth also issued a travel advisory for the Interior, asking tourists to leave, or avoid, the communities of Armstrong, Spallumcheen, the Okanagan Indian Band and parts of the Regional District of North Okanagan in the southern Interior.

"While we're acting out of an abundance of caution, the situation is very serious and could very well get worse quickly," Farnworth said. 

"If you are planning to visit this area, now is not the time to do so."

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With files from Rachel Adams, the Canadian Press