Of­fi­cials say scat­tered show­ers won’t help B.C. wild­fires

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

Crews bat­tling wild­fires in Bri­tish Columbia pre­pared for the worst as of­fi­cials pre­dicted stronger winds over the week­end af­ter a slight re­prieve from the weather in re­cent days.

Kevin Skrep­nek, chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for the BC Wild­fire Ser­vice, says the fore­cast called for sus­tained winds of 50 kilo­me­tres per hour.

“If that fore­cast comes to fruition, it’s go­ing to be a big chal­lenge for us,” he said.

About 180 wild­fires were burn­ing in cen­tral and south­ern B.C., in­clud­ing three around the Wil­liams Lake, where 11,000 peo­ple were on standby to leave their homes.

Some rain was in the fore­cast for the area, but of­fi­cials said show­ers would not be enough to douse ac­tive fires.

A spe­cial air qual­ity state­ment was in ef­fect for the In­te­rior and east­ern parts of the prov­ince. Res­i­dents were warned to avoid stren­u­ous ac­tiv­ity out­side, and chil­dren and se­niors were en­cour­aged to stay in­doors.

Al Rich­mond, chair­man of the Cari­boo Re­gional Dis­trict, said there was a no­tice­able dif­fer­ence in the air qual­ity when he went to Prince Ge­orge on Thurs­day night.

“It was re­fresh­ing for me to get into Prince Ge­orge ... and breathe the fresh air in­stead of the smoke­filled air we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing here in the Cari­boo,” he added.

Rich­mond at­tended a meet­ing for evac­uees Thurs­day night and he said he told the gath­er­ing ef­forts were un­der­way to re­store some nor­mal­ity in fire-weary com­mu­ni­ties.

Re­gional dis­trict of­fices in Ques­nel were slated to open Fri­day to pro­vide per­mits al­low­ing work­ers to travel on closed roads to reach the open pit cop­per­molyb­de­num mine op­er­ated by Taseko Mines Ltd.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has also been asked to al­low some move­ment on closed sec­tions of High­way 97 so that peo­ple who left their homes in Wil­liams Lake and went to Prince Ge­orge could drive south to Van­cou­ver.

The prov­ince de­clared a state of emer­gency last week and more than 16,000 peo­ple have been af­fected by evac­u­a­tion or­ders, with thou­sands more on alert.

The prov­ince said evac­uees must re­main pa­tient and wait for of­fi­cial no­tice be­fore they can re­turn home. It has also warned that vi­o­lat­ing or­ders can di­vert fire­fight­ers from fires to help with avoid­able res­cues.

TWIT­TER/SALLY AITKEN VIA CP

A wild­fire burns by the side of the high­way in Bri­tish Columbia’s West Chilcotin re­gion in this hand­out photo taken from video.

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