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Support set to arrive in B.C. as officials report 'extremely volatile' wildfire conditions

An aircraft flies through smoke on July 19 as it works to tame the Nk'Mip fire, which has forced evacuations in the southern Okanagan Valley.

An aircraft flies through smoke on July 19 as it works to tame the Nk'Mip fire, which has forced evacuations in the southern Okanagan Valley.

Photo: Submitted by Mike Fitzpatrick

RCI

Thousands under evacuation order as fires continue to threaten properties

More resources are making their way to British Columbia to help with wildfire-fighting efforts, as wind and heat look likely to cause more extreme fire behaviour in coming days.

More than 3,100 people are currently involved in firefighting efforts, including firefighters from Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick. Another 500 personnel are expected to arrive this weekend, including 100 firefighters from Mexico.

The federal government is also sending up to 350 Canadian Forces personnel (new window) to join the firefighting efforts.

The province says there are 178 helicopters and planes supporting ground crews throughout the province right now.

As of Wednesday morning, 295 fires are burning in the province, including the Sparks Lake fire, the largest at 470 square kilometres.

On Tuesday, the B.C. Wildfire Service said more than 3,000 square kilometres of land had been burned so far this year. There have been 1,162 wildfires to date. 

Evacuations

provincial state of emergency (new window), which comes into effect in B.C. on Wednesday, aims to help the province prepare for potential mass evacuations and secure accommodation for evacuees.

More than 3,000 people have already been ordered to evacuate their homes, and over 16,000 properties remain on evacuation alert. 

Early Wednesday, about 168 properties in the Kootenay communities of Apple Grove and Fauquier were ordered to evacuate (new window) due to the 32-square-kilometre Octopus Creek wildfire.

A wildfire believed to have been caused by a highway crash burns out of control near Sicamous, B.C., on July 20.

A wildfire believed to have been caused by a highway crash burns out of control near Sicamous, B.C., on July 20.

Photo: Shuswap Emergency Program/Twitter

Most residents of Sicamous were put under an evacuation order or told to prepare to leave on Tuesday after a highway crash sparked a wildfire at 2 Mile Road. 

The Nk'Mip Creek fire continues to burn on Osoyoos Indian Band land between the towns of Oliver and Osoyoos, about 40 kilometres south of Penticton. That fire is suspected to be human-caused.

'Extremely dry and extremely volatile'

Weather conditions are predicted to lead to more extreme fire behaviour through the week and into the weekend, as the forecast shows hot, dry and windy days ahead. 

Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations for the B.C. Wildfire Service, said crews are working tirelessly to suppress the fires but warned it's likely to get worse.

Strong winds are predicted to come up from the United States, fanning flames in the B.C. Interior over the next 48 hours. A wind advisory has been issued for the southern Interior and southeastern corner of the province.

No moisture is expected, and the southeast could see another batch of lightning that will ignite more blazes, he said.

It means firefighting efforts and control lines will be challenged.

We have the potential to see significant fire behaviour across the province, in particular in the southern half of the province where the conditions remain extremely dry and extremely volatile, he said.

Chapman said it's too early to make a direct comparison, but the conditions resemble those in 2017 and 2018, British Columbia's worst wildfire seasons on record.


Anyone placed under an evacuation order must 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. (new window) website.

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


With files from Roshini Nair and The Canadian Press

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