B.C.’s wildfire-driven provincial state of emergency has been formally extended again, through the end of the day on Sept. 1. This is the third time the state of emergency has been extended, with previous extensions on July 19 and Aug. 4.
The state of emergency declaration will continue to apply to the whole province. This ensures that federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated response to the wildfire situation and continue to ensure public safety, which remains the provincial government’s top priority.
As well, the province remains committed to provide ongoing, direct financial support to evacuees, with $600-per-household funding, being renewed every 14 days until evacuees return home. Eligible small businesses affected by the fires can also now receive a $1,500 emergency grant through the Canadian Red Cross and province.
As of this morning, there are 138 wildfires burning in B.C., with 27 evacuation orders affecting approximately 4,400 individuals, plus 40 evacuation alerts impacting approximately 20,700 people.
Weather not helping
A cold front bringing strong and variable winds, with gusts up to 60 km/h, is expected to move through the Cariboo Fire Centre on Friday, Aug. 18 and into the weekend. There is also a risk of lightning throughout the fire centre.
A shift from prevailing southwesterly winds to westerly and northwesterly winds is also expected.
Given the current wildfire situation in the Cariboo Fire Centre, the BC Wildfire Service anticipates that this weather system will lead to a substantial increase in wildfire activity throughout the region.
This wind event could cause existing fires to grow significantly and any new fires may burn aggressively and spread quickly. Firefighting crews have spent the last few days preparing for these expected conditions, but containment efforts will be challenged by this wind activity.
A shift in wind direction presents challenges to fire suppression efforts and increases risks to firefighters. Wind coming from a different direction can push wildfires into unburned fuels and trigger volatile fire behaviour.
Although a small amount of rain is expected in the Cariboo Fire Centre over the next couple of days, the amount of rainfall will vary by region and will not be substantial. Rain can help decrease fire behaviour temporarily, but its benefits can be short-lived if hot and windy conditions return.