Provincial firefighters struggles to control more than 220 wildfires

By Jill Sperling
July 10, 2017 - 5:00pm Updated: July 10, 2017 - 5:49pm

KAMLOOPS — Fires rage on across the province after an explosive weekend that saw more than 200 new fires start since Friday. 

B.C. is under a province-wide state of emergency, and several communities have been placed under evacuation order, including the village of Cache Creek, Little Fort, and the district of 100 Mile House. 

More than 220 wildfires are burning across the province, and according the BC Wildfire Service's Chief Fire Information Officer, Kevin Skrepnek, that number is shifting by the minute.

"Things came to a head Friday, over 140 new fires on Friday alone. Almost 100 on Saturday, and then about 27 yesterday."

Several fires are threatening communities, displacing at least 14,000 people so far. 

"All of Cache Creek, 100 Mile, Little Fort, a number of other smaller communities currently under evacuation order," Skrepnek said. "We have been recommending those out of an abundance of caution. We wanted people to get out of there with lots of time. Fires haven't entered those communities yet necessarily, but there's a very real threat there."

Weeks of hot, dry weather have scorched the Southern Interior and Cariboo regions, creating the perfect conditions for fueling the flames. 

Cindy Yu, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, says there has been minimal rain throughout the summer months. 

"We received 3.4 mm of precipitation in the month of June, and the average is really 37.4, so we've received less than 10 percent of our normal precipitation."

It's the wind that is causing the biggest issue for firefighters. 

"The wind is really going to dictate the growth on these fires," Skrepnek said. "We're expecting hot and dry conditions to continue, but the wind is a little bit more variable, it's a little bit harder to forecast, so we're going to have to keep a close eye on that."

Most of the smoke hanging over Kamloops has blown in from a 6,150 hectare fire near Ashcroft. 

"We have some active fires to the west of us, yesterday we saw a good push of westerly wind through Kamloops, and that certainly brought some of the smoke into the region," Yu said.

With no sign of rain in the forecast the BC Wildfire Service is anticipating a lengthy and difficult battle.

"Our resources are going to get stretched if we continue this tempo of activity, especially given the fact we're only 10 days into July at this point," Skrepnek said.

The BC Wildfire Service will be receiving addition help from out of province. 

Around 300 firefighters from Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick are scheduled to arrive in the province today (Jul 10) and tomorrow. 

Additional air support will also be brought in, as well as help from Parks Canada. 

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