B.C. may close back­coun­try be­cause of wild­fire risk

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OBITUARIES/NEWS -

A mix of dry con­di­tions and fore­cast light­ning has of­fi­cials in Bri­tish Columbia con­sid­er­ing clos­ing ac­cess to a vast sec­tion of its back­coun­try to mit­i­gate the wild­fire risk.

Re­stric­tions on ac­cess to all Crown land in the Cari­boo fire centre would go into ef­fect at noon on Friday as the prov­ince con­tin­ues to battle what Premier John Hor­gan has said is the worst fire sea­son since the 1950s. A fi­nal de­ci­sion was sched­uled to be made Friday morn­ing.

There were 148 fires burn­ing in the prov­ince on Thurs­day with the ma­jor­ity of new starts in re­cent days at­trib­uted to light­ning.

B.C. Forests Min­is­ter Doug Don­ald­son said the in­creased threat of nat­u­rally caused fires means it’s more im­por­tant than ever to pre­vent hu­man-caused fires.

“We have very, very dry con­di­tions all around the prov­ince, so any ad­di­tional fires start­ing have im­pli­ca­tions about the re­sources avail­able to fight them,” he said.

About 3,700 per­son­nel in­clud­ing fire­fight­ers, crew from other prov­inces and over­seas and forestry con­trac­tors are work­ing un­der the BC Wild­fire Ser­vice in re­sponse to the cri­sis.

Kevin Skrep­nek with the wild­fire ser­vice said a low pres­sure sys­tem rolling in to­day will bring cooler con­di­tions and thun­der­show­ers, but it’s un­clear whether the com­bi­na­tion of rain and light­ning will help or hin­der fire fight­ing ef­forts.

Wors­en­ing fire con­di­tions in the Anahim Lake area, in the Cen­tral Coast Re­gional District, prompted an evac­u­a­tion or­der Thurs­day, af­fect­ing a num­ber of small com­mu­ni­ties in­clud­ing the Ulkatcho First Na­tion.

The First Na­tion’s web­site says roughly 700 peo­ple live on the re­serve in the area with an­other 200 mem­bers off-re­serve. Res­i­dents are be­ing di­rected to re­cep­tion cen­tres in Prince Ge­orge.

The fi­nal de­ci­sion on the back­coun­try re­stric­tion will de­pend on wind con­di­tions. Don­ald­son added ex­emp­tions to some sites in the re­gion that have a lower risk for fires is pos­si­ble.

A re­stric­tion or­der would mean peo­ple can­not re­main in or en­ter the area with­out the prior writ­ten au­tho­riza­tion. Ex­cep­tions in­clude peo­ple who are trav­el­ling to or from their prin­ci­ple res­i­dence, a per­son act­ing in an of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity or those who sup­port ef­forts to fight wild­fires.

CP PHOTO

Smoke from wild­fires burn­ing in cen­tral Bri­tish Columbia hangs in the air as tourists tour the har­bour on the Con­sti­tu­tion pad­dle­wheel boat, in Van­cou­ver, B.C., on Thurs­day.

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