Government officials work to assure wildfire evacuees

By Doug Collins/Adam Donnelly
July 22, 2017 - 2:38pm Updated: July 22, 2017 - 7:23pm

KAMLOOPS — Federal and provincial officials came to Prince George and Kamloops today to get another look at the wildfire situation in the province, and assure evacuees and those on alert that everything possible is being done to ensure everyone remains safe and all resources available are being put into fighting the blazes.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told a news conference in Kamloops today that work on the wildfires has been seamless, even with the transition of government in B.C. He says "everyone is on the same side while battling the B.C. wildfires. 
He says it's been a massive effort caring for dislocated people, and he says local people in areas where evacuation centres have been set up deserve massive credit. 

But Goodale said "it's still a very dangerous situation, and very difficult to predict." he said weather and forest conditions will play a big role in what happens next. There is a chance that gusty winds forecast for tonight and tomorrow could have an impact on the fire growth.  

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said military ground forces will take over checkpoint duties for the RCMP. He says more troops and air assets are on standby if needed.  He said "we want to make sure we have military resources on the ground as soon as possible, as the conditions can change quickly."

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says he's overwhelmed by the support of communities like Kamloops and Prince George who have stepped up in force to help those in need in these troubling times. 

Goodale said the federal government will match the province's contribution of $600 per household to help fund relief for those affected. Farnworth added that those funds help provide hope and certainty for families who could, in many cases, wind up with their homes and possessions destroyed. 

 

On the fire front itself, the fire near Princeton is now 100 percent contained, and many of the residents evacuated have been allowed to return home. But highway 5A is only open to evacuated residents, and those wanting to go in must have a pass from the Okanagan-Similkameen regional district.

There are some small fires burning in the Celista-Anglemont area in the Shuswap, but they are reported to be away from any structures and not posing any problems at this time.

The Gustafsen fire near 100 Mile House is reported to be 90 percent contained at this stage, and  the Ashcroft Reserve Fire, now referred to as the Elephant Hill fire, is 30 percent contained. It is still the largest fire burning in the province, at 58,363 hectares.

There had been a report that people would soon be able to go back to their homes in Williams Lake, but emergency officials say that's not the case. There is no plan at this stage to return people to Williams Lake any time soon. 

The evacuation order has been lifted for a portion of the 100 Mile House area. That was done this afternoon. The area is still on alert and things could change at any time. Much of the 100 Mile House area, though, is still under an evacuation order at this time. Northwest of 100 Mile House, there is an expanded evacuation order because of wildfire activity there. 

 

Returning evacuees urged to take health precautions

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