B.C. wild­fire sit­u­a­tion ‘still de­te­ri­o­rat­ing,’ of­fi­cial

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Bri­tish Columbia of­fi­cials are brac­ing for a lengthy wild­fire sea­son as hun­dreds of blazes burn across the prov­ince with no re­prieve in sight.

About 14,000 peo­ple have been dis­placed by more than 200 wild­fires and Bob Turner of Emer­gency Management BC said the sit­u­a­tion is still de­te­ri­o­rat­ing.

“We are look­ing at many weeks to come of a very chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­ment and pub­lic safety will re­main the over­rid­ing pri­or­ity of govern­ment,” he said.

The Cari­boo Re­gional Dis­trict ex­panded an evac­u­a­tion or­der on Mon­day night to cover the Alexis Creek and West Fraser ar­eas in ad­di­tion to the Kleena Kleene re­gion.

An evac­u­a­tion alert — which puts res­i­dents on no­tice that they may have to leave with lit­tle warn­ing — was is­sued for the more than 10,000 res­i­dents of Wil­liams Lake Mon­day night. Mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials warned that wind and light­ning fore­cast for Wed­nes­day could push fires to­wards the city at a “rapid pace.”

The Tsil­hqot’in Na­tion, which en­com­passes six com­mu­ni­ties near Wil­liams Lake, said four of its com­mu­ni­ties are threat­ened and many mem­bers have al­ready evac­u­ated. Food, wa­ter, fuel and medicine are in short sup­ply, it said in a state­ment.

Joe Alphonse, chief of the Tl’et­inqox com­mu­nity, said in the state­ment that about 250 to 300 peo­ple stayed be­hind, with some mo­bi­liz­ing to fight the fires and save about 120 homes. He said they have some heavy equip­ment but he called on the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments to bring in more re­sources.

“We won’t leave with­out a fight,” said Alphonse, who is also chair­man of the Tsil­hqot’in Na­tional Govern­ment.

“These fires are big and un­pre­dictable. Our able bod­ied vol­un­teers have stayed and are ded­i­cated to sav­ing our com­mu­ni­ties. Our brave men and women are do­ing a great job.”

The Thomp­son-Ni­cola Re­gional Dis­trict also added more prop­er­ties to its evac­u­a­tion alert in the Cache Creek area, say­ing a “rapidly mov­ing wild­fire” con­tin­ues to pose an “im­mi­nent threat. The ex­panded alert in­cludes 57 ad­dressed in three elec­toral dis­tricts.

Kevin Skrep­nek, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer with the BC Wild­fire Ser­vice, said gusty winds and hot, dry con­di­tions are ex­pected to per­sist through­out the prov­ince over the next sev­eral days, mean­ing fire crews will not get a re­prieve from the weather.

The fires, which have scorched about 400 square kilo­me­tres of land, are be­ing fought by some 1,000 B.C. fire­fight­ers, with about 300 col­leagues and sup­port staff ar­riv­ing from Al­berta, Saskatchewan, On­tario and New Brunswick.

Three hun­dred ad­di­tional RCMP mem­bers from out­side the fire ar­eas have been re-de­ployed to help and an­other 40 mem­bers are be­ing brought in from Al­berta, said Deputy Com­mis­sioner Brenda But­ter­worth-Carr at a news con­fer­ence.

Of­fi­cers are pa­trolling evac­u­ated homes around the clock and sev­eral peo­ple have been ar­rested for break and en­ters or mis­chief in 100 Mile House and Wil­liams Lake, she said.

CP PHOTO

The burned re­mains of a vin­tage truck sit in front of a house that sur­vived a wild­fire in Bos­ton Flats, B.C., on Mon­day.

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