BY BILL PHILLIPS
Last year a good portion of the province’s attention was focused on the Cariboo where wildfires raged, forcing the evacuation of 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, and several other smaller communities.
This year, Mother Nature has spread out the wildfires out across the province.
“This year the fire season seemed to start later, but it is more widespread,” said Doug Donaldson, Forests Minister, Wednesday. “We have wildfires of note in all areas of the province. That’s a bit different than last year.”
The two fires of most concern are the Snowy Mountain fire near Keremeos and the Telegraph Creek fire, which has destroyed at least two dozen buildings in that community. Donaldson and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth tried to get into Telegraph Creek today, but it was too smoky for their plane to land at Dease Lake and they were turned back.
“The provincial emergency coordination centres have opened in both Kamloops and Terrace,” said Farnworth. “There are 22 evacuation alerts in the province and 17 evacuation orders.”
The largest evacuation order is in Telegraph Creek. Reception centres have been set up at Dease Lake and Terrace.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 462 fires burning across B.C. There were 44 new fires start on Tuesday. Since April 1 there have been 1,552 fires that have burned 101,000 hectares. The cost to fight these fires is sitting at $131 million.
“We are focusing first and foremost on protecting public safety,” said Kevin Skrepnek Chief Fire Information Officer.
There are about 2,800 personnel fighting fires, which includes 1,200 private contractors. There are 204 aircraft being used.
Smoke is an issue across the province and it will linger for a few more days.
Weather is likely to break by Friday, but that could be as much as a curse as a blessing.
“The real day that we are focusing on is Friday, we are expecting a shift in the weather,” he said. “The ridge of high pressure is going to break down. That means temperatures will drop, but unfortunately that will bring about increased winds and possibly thunderstorm activity.”
The key to thunderstorm activity, which will increase by Friday, is weather those storms bring rainfall or not.