0BC Wildfire Service)

Communities on evacuation alert in many areas of B.C. as wildfires flare

Warning was issued for 583-square-kilometre blaze that has charred Fraser Lake to Fort St. James

Crews battling wildfires across British Columbia braced Friday for intense activity on some of the nearly 600 blazes in the province after the Wildfire Service issued a warning of extreme fire behaviour.

The warning can be issued when high heat and a lack of rain combine to strip humidity from the air, said information officer Forrest Tower.

“When (humidity) drops below a certain percentage that’s when we start to see increased fire behaviour as the fuels start to dry out. Because all our fuels are already pretty dry, when there is no humidity to help out, it just increases fire behaviour,” Tower said.

The warning was issued for a 583-square-kilometre blaze that has charred an area from Fraser Lake to Fort St. James in the northern Interior. Tower said gusty winds were also forecast for Friday, adding to the potential for dangerous fire behaviour.

High winds were also a key reason for an evacuation alert issued Thursday night to about 4,500 residents of Kimberley in southeastern B.C. as a 56-square-kilometre wildfire pushed north towards the city. An area southwest of Kimberley was ordered evacuated Thursday and the Wildfire Service recommended an alert be extended to Kimberley so residents would have time to prepare.

“Everyone has learned a lot from last year,” said Tower, referring to evacuation orders and alerts that affected tens of thousands living in B.C.’s central and southern Interior during the 2017 wildfire season.

READ MORE: Whole city of Kimberley on an evacuation alert due to wildfires

READ MORE: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

“I think they just definitely want to be ahead of the game. … They just want everyone to be aware that there is a fire in (the) area, so they want to be really proactive with evacuation alerts, so people are well aware of the situation.”

He added: “It doesn’t mean that you have to panic.”

Fort St. James is one of the many communities in north and central B.C. threatened by the largest wildfire, called the Shovel Lake fire. Tower said the roughly 1,700 residents were anxious after weeks of being on evacuation alert.

“When a large community is put on evacuation alert for quite some time, we call it alert fatigue,” he said.

“It kind of sets in when people are constantly stressing about when or if an evacuation order gets put into place and it can increase stress levels quite a bit.”

The BC Wildfire Service also tweeted that it was seeing an increase in fire activity in the Kamloops Fire Centre, which was hard hit by major blazes in 2017, because temperatures were rising, relative humidity was dropping and winds were starting to kick up.

The service says 50 of B.C.’s nearly 600 wildfires were considered highly visible or potentially dangerous to people or property and those fires were burning in all areas of the province. That included Vancouver Island, where dozens of small lightning-caused wildfires at the northern end of the Island prompted a state of local emergency in the logging community of Zeballos as one of the fires burned close to its main access road.

Air quality advisories remained in effect across much of Western Canada due to smoke but Tower said some of it was lifting around the Shovel Lake fire, allowing helicopters to get into the air for the first time in two days.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Celebrating Family Day in Grand Forks

The activities on Market offered plenty for the whole family to do.

Grand Forks council flip-flops on BC Housing proposal

The low-income housing project on 19th was recalled for a second vote.

Rescued snowmobilers ill-prepared for emergency, Castlegar RCMP say

Two men rescued Wednesday night were not ready for overnight in back country

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

Most Read