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'We are seeing fires ignite and grow quite quickly': More than 250 wildfires burning in B.C.

Vancouver -

The dry, hot weather is not on the side of crews battling more than 250 wildfires across B.C.

“We are seeing fires ignite and grow quite quickly,” said Karley Desrosiers, fire information officers with the BC Wildfire Service.

On Saturday, there were 38 wildfires of note – a designation meaning they’re either highly visible, pose a threat to property, or both – in the province. By Sunday, that list had grown by two.

One of the recent additions – the Garrison Lake fire in the Kamloops Fire Centre – was first spotted Friday, prompting an evacuation alert for 141 properties in the area. By Sunday, it was burning 435 hectares and classified as out of control.

The other new wildfire of note is the Cultus Creek fire, which was first noticed back on July 2, but on Saturday grew significantly, prompting an evacuation order. That order was reduced to an alert on Sunday.

“These hot, dry conditions are expected to persist and no kind of relief in sight in terms of the forecast,” said Desrosiers.

There is also an evacuation order in effect for 126 properties near the Mount Baldy resort because of the growth of the Cultus Creek fire, she said.

“It’s basically just the factors on site that are causing the growth,” Desrosiers said. “At the moment, the factors are still the heat; the wind.”

The largest fire burning in the province is the Sparks Lake fire, which is more than 56,000 hectares and still burning out of control.

“We are seeing growth and an evacuation order remains in effect for 296 properties,” said Desrosiers about that blaze.

One of the biggest challenges facing crews continues to be the lack of rain. Desrosiers told CTV News Vancouver that issue can be traced back to fall 2020.

“Certain areas of the Okanagan received 20 per cent of the precipitation that they would normally expect through the spring and through the winter,” she said.

Then, when the recording-setting heat wave hit, the province saw the amount of drying it would normally see in a month or six weeks over the course of just seven days, Desrosiers said.

The Canadian Armed Forces, other provinces and other countries are sending help to B.C. Quebec has sent about 180 firefighters to date, and Mexico sent 100 Saturday.

“We’re organizing, we’re working closely with British Columbia wildfire services to figure the best way to support them,” said Maj. Adam Petrin, commander of the Forces’ Task Force British Columbia.

“What we anticipate doing in the next few days is sending soldiers out to specific areas where they are required.”

He and his soldiers are based in Vernon. Petrin told CTV News there are approximately 150 of them already there and about 100 more on the way on Monday.

“Which would bring us to a total of approximately 250 soldiers in the operations area,” he said.

The biggest challenge they are facing right now, he explained, is identifying the areas where the BC Wildfire Service needs their help the most.

“Our soldiers will free those firefighters up to attack the fire right at the fire itself and our soldiers will support,” said Petrin. “Everything from mop up operations, dealing with hot spots that may occur, those types of tasks.”

The request for assistance with the Canadian Armed Forces is in place until Aug. 30, said Petrin, but he added they are flexible and can stay longer if asked and agreed to by the federal government.

“We are expecting this is going to be a long season and that’s why getting that out-of-country and out-of-province support is so helpful,” said Desrosiers.

One bit of good news is the number of new fires starting has dropped from about 45 daily to 10.

“We’re over 1,200 fires to date, which is over double the 10-year average for this time of year,” said Desrosiers. “And compared to last year, we’re almost double the fires we had for the whole year.” Top Stories

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