Ex­tent of B.C. fire dam­age still un­clear

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - NATIONAL NEWS -

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Wild­fires across Bri­tish Columbia have torn through sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties, but of­fi­cials say the num­ber of homes, busi­nesses and other struc­tures lost re­mains un­clear.

Hot, windy weather has fanned flames across the prov­ince, in­clud­ing near Ashcroft, where a fire has now burned through 423 square kilo­me­tres.

Fire in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer El­lie Dupont said the blaze has gone through a few towns, but she could not say how many build­ings were de­stroyed.

She said the fire is burn­ing very ag­gres­sively be­cause of the weather, the dry fuel and the re­gion’s to­pog­ra­phy. Ev­ery spe­cial­ist who has come in to work on the fire over the past week has made a com­ment about how “nasty” the fire is, she said.

“It’s com­plex,” Dupont said. “It’s mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to fight the fire and to keep every­one safe so they’ve giv­ing out a lot of evac­u­a­tion alerts and or­ders so we can re­move that threat and get in there and work prop­erly on the fire without any worry of peo­ple be­ing in the path.”

Sev­eral homes were con­firmed lost when a fast-mov­ing fire raced through brush and for­est above Okana­gan Lake in the com­mu­nity of Lake Coun­try late Satur­day.

Of­fi­cials in Lake Coun­try said res­i­dents hop­ing to get back to their homes on Sun­day were be­ing turned away.

Lake Coun­try fire chief Steve Wind­sor said res­i­dents are un­der­stand­ably wor­ried about the pos­si­ble loss of their homes.

“We’re not re­leas­ing the num­bers yet,” he said. “But at this point we’re say­ing ’nu­mer­ous,’ and it is quite nu­mer­ous.”

A news re­lease from Cen­tral Okana­gan Emer­gency Oper­a­tions said as many as 10 struc­tures had been re­ported dam­aged.

Wind­sor said no one has been se­ri­ously hurt by the fire, but some fire­fight­ers have been treated for mi­nor in­juries.

The fire has been largely been con­tained, Wind­sor said, but the sit­u­a­tion has not yet been sta­bi­lized.

Winds threaten to blow the flames past re­tar­dant lines that were set up overnight, and the fire is be­hav­ing “ag­gres­sively,” he said.

Thou­sands of res­i­dents were or­dered to leave the cen­tral In­te­rior city of Wil­liams Lake and nu­mer­ous com­mu­ni­ties sur­round­ing it on Satur­day night as fire lines threat­ened to cut off nearby high­ways.

Cari­boo Re­gional District Chair­man Al Rich­mond said that the flames had not reached Wil­liams Lake on Sun­day, but he and the mayor de­cided to is­sue the evac­u­a­tion or­der be­cause the fire threat­ened to cut exit routes.

Ini­tially, they planned that Wil­liams Lake res­i­dents would go north to Prince George, but Rich­mond said flames crossed that high­way, and the ma­jor­ity of evac­uees were di­verted south to­wards Kamloops.

Res­i­dents who had been forced to leave ear­lier this week from nu­mer­ous other Cari­boo com­mu­ni­ties were also told to go to Kamloops.

Rich­mond said the re­sources in Kamloops may be “stretched.” He said he was con­cerned about over­load­ing the cen­tre and urged those peo­ple whose homes had been evac­u­ated to call the Red Cross, which is help­ing co-or­di­nate the ef­forts.

Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Todd Stone said as many as 37,000 peo­ple were out of their homes by Sun­day.

“We are go­ing to get through this. We are re­silient,” he said dur­ing a con­fer­ence call.

B.C.’s chief fire in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer Kevin Skrep­nek says there are over 160 fires burn­ing in the prov­ince, 16 of those were started Satur­day.

DAR­RYL DYCK/ THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Smoke from wild­fires burn­ing in cen­tral B.C. shrouds the north shore of Kamloops, B.C., on July 10.

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