B.C. of­fi­cials tally losses fol­low­ing wild­fires

Seek­ing to no­tify peo­ple who have lost their homes in fires that caused large evac­u­a­tions

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Of­fi­cials in Bri­tish Columbia say they are be­gin­ning the dif­fi­cult process of no­ti­fy­ing those who have lost homes in the out-of-con­trol wild­fires that have prompted a pro­vin­cial state of emer­gency.

Cari­boo Re­gional District chair Al Rich­mond said Mon­day that teams have gained ac­cess to ar­eas where houses and other build­ings have been de­stroyed north­west of 100 Mile House.

“We can start to phone the res­i­dents who have had losses,” he said.

Crews are also work­ing to re­store elec­tric­ity, tele­phone ser­vice and other in­fra­struc­ture in re­gions evac­u­ated af­ter the fires broke out July 6.

“Our staff is ac­tively en­gag­ing in the south Cari­boo to look at re-en­try plans for our res­i­dents, should they be able to re­turn home,” Rich­mond said, al­though he cau­tioned re­turn could be “a ways off.”

At least 40,000 peo­ple have been forced from their homes by nearly 160 wild­fires in cen­tral and south­ern B.C., while 17,000 oth­ers are on evac­u­a­tion alert.

A wind-fu­elled flare-up of a fire near Wil­liams Lake Satur­day forced the evac­u­a­tion of that city, but Rich­mond said crews had man­aged to keep the flames in check about five kilo­me­tres north­west of the com­mu­nity.

He said a sawmill is in the path of the 80-square kilo­me­tre blaze should it ad­vance, as is the Wil­liams Lake emer­gency op­er­a­tion cen­tre, but there had been no calls for fur­ther evac­u­a­tions.

A num­ber of peo­ple have been ar­rested for loot­ing evac­u­ated homes near Wil­liams Lake, in­clud­ing a 38year-old pro­lific of­fender was ar­rested with $65,000 worth of items, said RCMP Staff Sgt. An­nie Lin­teau.

Near Kelowna, about 60 homes re­mained on evac­u­a­tion alert in the com­mu­nity of Lake Coun­try af­ter a hu­man-caused fire was sparked Fri­day, de­stroy­ing eight homes.

Lake Coun­try Fire Chief Steve Wind­sor said the 55-hectare blaze started along the side of a road and was 75 per cent con­tained by Mon­day. The cause of the fire is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Canada’s pub­lic safety min­is­ter said the fed­eral govern­ment is help­ing in the fire­fight­ing ef­fort in ev­ery way pos­si­ble.

Speak­ing in Pi­lot Butte, Sask., Ralph Goodale said 500 ad­di­tional RCMP of­fi­cers have been sent in to as­sist with evac­u­a­tion and po­lice com­mu­ni­ties when they have been cleared out.

He said fire crews have been sent in from nu­mer­ous prov­inces.

“So Saskatchewan is con­tribut­ing to the ef­fort as well as Al­berta, and vir­tu­ally ev­ery other prov­ince right across the coun­try to the Mar­itimes. So Cana­di­ans have ral­lied to­gether here.”

More than 3,000 staff, in­clud­ing fire­fight­ers, sup­port staff and 450 per­son­nel brought in from other prov­inces, are hard at work, said BC Wild­fire Ser­vice chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer Kevin Skrep­nek.

Fifty per­son­nel from Aus­tralia are set to ar­rive Wed­nes­day. Skrep­nek said they are highly trained spe­cial­ists and sup­port staff.

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