KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Officials are aghast that some people are still ignoring campfire restrictions in British Columbia as wildfires fuelled by hot, dry and gusty conditions continue to plague the province.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau said Friday that three men who appeared “totally oblivious to the wildfire danger” were slapped with a $1,150 fine Thursday evening after being caught drinking around a campfire by Kalamalka Lake near Vernon.
“Winds were gusty and small embers were gently flying from the campfire,” she said, adding the local fire department was brought in to ensure the fire was out and wouldn’t spread.
With no sight of rain in the forecast to bring reprieve, officials are reminding the public to stay up-to-date and adhere to park and campfire bans.
They also want people to be careful with discarded cigarettes and remember even hot engines and tailpipes taken off-roading could spark a fire.
Wildfire service chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek said a dozen new fires broke out Thursday, in line with a daily trend over the past week that could get worse.
“Thankfully none of those fires have materialized to anything of major concern,” he said. “To be perfectly honest, the fact that we’re only getting 10 to 15 new fires is somewhat surprising given how volatile it is out there.”
Conditions prompted the expansion of an evacuation order for some homes in a remote area west of Quesnel late Thursday. Orders were still in effect for some properties outside Williams Lake, and others around fires north of Cache Creek and near Monte Lake, east of Kamloops.
A young couple with two children confirmed their home was destroyed in the fire near Monte Lake shortly after the area was evacuated on Wednesday.
Relatives of the family said they were away from home and had no opportunity to grab important papers or other items before flames raced up Martin Mountain.
Skrepnek said the Kamloops air tanker base saw the highest single-day use of fire retardant at 600,000 litres picked up on Thursday, which largely went toward fighting the Monte Lake fire that remains 150 hectares in size.
A cause of that fire remains under investigation.
Also on Thursday, thousands of people were given the OK to return to their homes in and around Williams Lake, but the wildfire service reminded residents they may have to leave again on short notice.
Robert Turner of Emergency Management BC said about 5,000 residents are still affected by evacuation orders, but the exact number of people displaced is unclear.
RCMP said there is confusion among those displaced, as some people whose homes are still under evacuation order are showing up at check points thinking they can return. Officials said anyone considering heading home should first check maps on their regional district website to be sure the order on their property was rescinded.
Officials also encouraged people to sign up for an electronic notification system so they can receive emails or text messages the moment an evacuation order is issued.
The wildfire service said $160.8 million has been spent so far on suppressing more than 800 fires since April 1.
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