Little reprieve for firefighters in B.C. as wildfire threat moves south | CBC News

Hundreds of wildfires continue to burn in B.C, with some of the most concerning blazes now in the southern half of the province, as more international resources pour in to help with the fight. 

The province is in the midst of a wildfire season that is already the worst on record when it comes to area burned, with 14,800 square kilometres charred as of 11 a.m. Sunday.

The B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) says some rain is expected to help firefighters in northern B.C., where most of B.C.’s fires of note — those that pose a threat to public safety or are publicly visible — are burning.

However, two fires of note are burning close to communities in the Interior. One of them, the Ross Moore Lake fire south of Kamloops, B.C., more than doubled in size overnight — going from seven square kilometres to 18 square kilometres.

An evacuation order has been issued due to the fire, covering 49 properties, with an evacuation alert covering 327 properties. Hundreds of people have been ordered to leave their homes across B.C. due to fires.

Melanie Bibeau, a fire information officer with the BCWS, says the Ross Moore Lake fire is highly visible from Highway 5 and Highway 5A.

“Currently, our crews are working today in the southeast corner, putting a lot of focus in that area,” she told CBC News on Sunday morning. “We are expecting to have aerial resources overhead today as well. People within the Kamloops area might see some helicopters or potentially air tankers going over that fire today.”

Kamloops is a city of around 90,000 people located in the central Interior, around 350 km northeast of Vancouver.

Mike McCulley, another fire information officer, said that dry lightning and thunderstorm conditions are expected to move toward the Okanagan and other portions of southern B.C., some of which are under a heat warning — including the North Thompson, Boundary and Kootenay Lake areas.

“In the last week, we’ve had over 61,000 [lightning] strikes across the entire province,” he said. “Not only is it hot and difficult conditions, but these windy conditions increase fire behaviour.” 

McCulley said that most of the fires now burning in the province have been caused by lightning, compared to earlier in the season where human activity caused most of the blazes.

“We do need the public to remain extremely diligent. We need them to pay very close attention,” he said. “Any fire that’s human caused takes away resources … that we could use to help fight lightning-caused fires.”

Over 600 international firefighters helping

McCulley said there are more than 600 international firefighters helping with operations in the province, many of which are in the province’s north. Firefighters have arrived from Mexico, Brazil, Australia and the U.S.

Just northeast of Cranbrook, in the province’s southeast, over 660 properties are on evacuation alert and 67 homes are on evacuation order due to the St. Mary’s River wildfire.

That fire has already burned through homes and has the Canadian Rockies International Airport on evacuation alert.

Large plumes of smoke arise behind a row of trees.
The St. Mary’s River wildfire is seen burning north of Cranbrook, B.C., earlier this week. Dozens of people have had to leave their homes in a First Nation community due to the blaze, which has burned through homes. (Submitted by Bob Bennison)

An evacuation order also covers 192 properties close to the Casper Creek wildfire in the Squamish-Lillooet region north of Vancouver.

Highway 20 on the Central Coast, near Bella Coola, remains closed due to the Young Creek wildfire. The blaze currently covers an area of 33.6 square kilometres.

DriveBC says piloted convoys, two each going westbound and eastbound, will lead commercial vehicles through the route each day.

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