BY BILL PHILLIPS
Fire officials are keeping their fingers crossed that a change in the weather by the weekend could bring some much-needed help battling the province’s wildfires.
“In terms of weather, we are expecting a big of shift by the weekend,” said provincial fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek in a daily update of the fire situation. “There is a risk of lightning over the next few days. Friday is when we see a bit of a shift. Inflow winds, should help with the smoke.”
He said the forecast is for some rain on Saturday, but forecasters don’t know how much or how long it will rain.
“Rain is a real wildcard to forecast this far out,” he said. “We will see unstable weather, gusty weather. Getting some rain on these fires would be welcome.”
He said there were 20 new fires in the province Tuesday, however none of those were major fires. Most of those new fires were in the southeast area of the province. Fire crews are currently battling 150 wildfires across the entire province. To date, there have been 942 wildfires in B.C. this year. The total cost of fighting those fires is now as $254 million.
“We are focusing our efforts on public safety as well as safety of staff,” he said.
The B.C. Wildfire Service has 3,600 people working on battling the blazes, plus 600 from out of the province. It is employing 227 aircraft in the fight.
The Elephant Hill fire is the province’s largest at 117,000 hectares. It is 30 per cent contained, said Skrepnek. There are still hot and dry conditions in that area.
Skrepnek encouraged people to extremely careful as human-caused fires just add to the problem.
“Every human-caused fire is a preventable fire,” he said. “Every human-caused fire makes us divert resources away from lightning-caused fires.”
Robert Turner, Emergency Management BC, said the Red Cross appeal has raised $13 million. The Red Cross has distributed 1,531 cots, 3,100 blankets, 11,000 hygiene kits, 1,500 pillows, 11,000 clean up kits, and 12,000 after the fire kits.
Maya Lang of Destination BC said tourism operators across B.C. are feeling the pinch as tourists are tending to stay away from the province.
“Some of the regions and communities that are hundreds of kilometres away from the impacted areas have had cancellations from across Canada and overseas,” she said. “We want to assure people they can travel safely in B.C.”
Destination BC has been working hard to get that message out there. She said they continue to market the entire province, focusing on areas on currently impacted by the fires. In addition, she said, once the fire danger has passed, Destination BC will put additional resources into marketing the areas that were directly impacted by fires.