0BC Wildfire Service)

Communities on evacuation alert in many areas of B.C. as wildfires flare

Warning was issued for 583-square-kilometre blaze that has charred Fraser Lake to Fort St. James

Crews battling wildfires across British Columbia braced Friday for intense activity on some of the nearly 600 blazes in the province after the Wildfire Service issued a warning of extreme fire behaviour.

The warning can be issued when high heat and a lack of rain combine to strip humidity from the air, said information officer Forrest Tower.

“When (humidity) drops below a certain percentage that’s when we start to see increased fire behaviour as the fuels start to dry out. Because all our fuels are already pretty dry, when there is no humidity to help out, it just increases fire behaviour,” Tower said.

The warning was issued for a 583-square-kilometre blaze that has charred an area from Fraser Lake to Fort St. James in the northern Interior. Tower said gusty winds were also forecast for Friday, adding to the potential for dangerous fire behaviour.

High winds were also a key reason for an evacuation alert issued Thursday night to about 4,500 residents of Kimberley in southeastern B.C. as a 56-square-kilometre wildfire pushed north towards the city. An area southwest of Kimberley was ordered evacuated Thursday and the Wildfire Service recommended an alert be extended to Kimberley so residents would have time to prepare.

“Everyone has learned a lot from last year,” said Tower, referring to evacuation orders and alerts that affected tens of thousands living in B.C.’s central and southern Interior during the 2017 wildfire season.

READ MORE: Whole city of Kimberley on an evacuation alert due to wildfires

READ MORE: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

“I think they just definitely want to be ahead of the game. … They just want everyone to be aware that there is a fire in (the) area, so they want to be really proactive with evacuation alerts, so people are well aware of the situation.”

He added: “It doesn’t mean that you have to panic.”

Fort St. James is one of the many communities in north and central B.C. threatened by the largest wildfire, called the Shovel Lake fire. Tower said the roughly 1,700 residents were anxious after weeks of being on evacuation alert.

“When a large community is put on evacuation alert for quite some time, we call it alert fatigue,” he said.

“It kind of sets in when people are constantly stressing about when or if an evacuation order gets put into place and it can increase stress levels quite a bit.”

The BC Wildfire Service also tweeted that it was seeing an increase in fire activity in the Kamloops Fire Centre, which was hard hit by major blazes in 2017, because temperatures were rising, relative humidity was dropping and winds were starting to kick up.

The service says 50 of B.C.’s nearly 600 wildfires were considered highly visible or potentially dangerous to people or property and those fires were burning in all areas of the province. That included Vancouver Island, where dozens of small lightning-caused wildfires at the northern end of the Island prompted a state of local emergency in the logging community of Zeballos as one of the fires burned close to its main access road.

Air quality advisories remained in effect across much of Western Canada due to smoke but Tower said some of it was lifting around the Shovel Lake fire, allowing helicopters to get into the air for the first time in two days.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

COMMUTER ALERT: Serious pedestrian crash closes Pacific Highway

Traffic along 176th Street, 4th to 8th Avenue, is blocked while Mounties continue to investigate.

B.C. Sports Hall of Fame to give Giants owner Ron Toigo W.A.C. Bennett Award

Head of Langley-based team has been involved with junior hockey since the 1990s

VIDEO: Young Langley boy uses his grief to help other kids suffering loss

Thursday Langley Hospice hosts its Paint the Town Blue campaign to spotlight child bereavement.

No charges against cop accused of stuffing money into sock during search

BC Prosecution Service says not enough evidence against Abbotsford officer

‘Scrap-metal sweetie’ makes Langley centrefold

Most pictures in Langley’s 2019 firefighters’ calendar feature members with their own pets.

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Tubing, skating, light display part of new winter festival in Vancouver

Set to open Nov. 23, the six-week festival will take over Vancouver’s Concord Pacific Centre

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Regulatory confusion over ‘toxic’ stink near Abbotsford school

Officials sniffing out which regulators responsible for enforcing compliance at neighbouring property

Most Read