Homes destroyed, others evacuated as B.C. wildfire situation heats up
Published Wednesday, August 8, 2018 10:28AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2018 7:02PM PDT
A massive wildfire raging in northwestern B.C. has devoured dozens of homes and buildings as another burning in the province's Cariboo region threatens dozens more.
Up north, the Alkali Lake wildfire has grown to about 90 square kilometres in size and swallowed up 27 properties in the small community of Telegraph Creek.
Hugh Murdoch of the B.C. Wildfire Service said crews have been working frantically to slow its growth by dropping fire retardant chemicals, but that it's been an uphill battle.
"That fire is burning through retardant that was put down heavy by planes all day long," Murdoch said at a community meeting this week. "(Crews are) doing everything they possibly can. We've got one hell of a fire in a really bad place."
The town's entire population of about 240 people has already been forced to flee for their safety.
Further south, in the Cariboo Regional District, an evacuation order was issued Wednesday for 93 properties threatened by the 900-hectare Shag Creek wildfire that's currently burning completely out of control. (LINK)
Homes from the northwestern boundary of the district all the way to the southern edge of Tsacha Lake are covered by the order. Officials said there are concerns the fire's spread could cut off access routes to the areas.
"Due to immediate danger, members of the RCMP and Search and Rescue will be expediting this (evacuation)," the regional district said in an alert.
On Vancouver Island, the Nanaimo Lakes wildfire remains only 10 per cent contained. That fire, which is believed to have been caused by human activity, has forced an evacuation order for properties west of the 160-hectare blaze, and another 77 evacuation alerts for homes on the east.
Anyone on evacuation alert is asked to be packed and ready to flee on a moment's notice.
Provincial firefighting crews are now contending with some 460-odd wildfires across B.C., with about a dozen new ones breaking out every day. And recent hot weather and tinder-dry conditions have made the situation even worse – the fire danger rating is now either "extreme" or "high" for most of the province, including the entire Lower Mainland.
Any rating greater than "moderate" means new fires can spark easily and burn vigorously, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service.
In Metro Vancouver, all regional parks are currently considered at extreme risk for fires. Some have been closed to the public altogether, and campfires, briquette barbecues and cooking stoves are banned in all the others.
Propane barbecues are allowed in regional parks as long as local firefighters don't object, officials said.
Smoking is also banned in every regional park, including in designated smoking areas. Despite that, there were still discarded cigarette butts in the tinder-dry grass at Ambleside Regional Park on Wednesday.
A video that was uploaded to Facebook over the weekend shows someone flicking a cigarette butt out of a car window onto dry grass – behaviour that officials describe as extremely careless.
"Given how volatile the situation is across the province right now, (it’s) definitely frustrating to see videos like that," Kevin Skrepnek of the B.C. Wildfire Service said Tuesday.
Though different cities might have different rules in place for local parks, people should err on the side of caution and check before assuming any cooking-related activity is allowed.
Anyone who spots a wildfire in a Metro Vancouver park is urged to report it by calling 911. Elsewhere in the province, wildfires can be reported to the B.C. Wildfire Service by calling 1-800-663-5555.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim and Michele Brunoro