Smoke paints the sky at Fraser Lake in northwestern B.C. At times ash and smoke from forest fires created near-darkness in daytime. (David Luggi)

Conditions improve for battling northwest B.C. wildfires, minister says

‘Self-evacuated’ people fleeing smoke advised to go home

On his third trip to the Fraser Lake area in the past week, B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said Friday dark ash cloud conditions have eased after severe visibility problems earlier in the week, to allow more aerial attack on fires in northwest B.C.

The Shovel Lake fire north of the lake has prompted one of 28 evacuation orders as the B.C. Wildfire Service, police and Canadian Forces personnel deal with 556 fires as of Friday afternoon.

With another 49 evacuation alerts in effect, covering more than 11,000 properties around the province and facilities strained to the limit in Prince George, Emergency Management B.C. has asked people who “self-evacuated” due to smoke conditions without being ordered out, to go home and leave motel rooms and other spaces for people who have no choice but to evacuate.

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry advised people who are not on evacuation order to prepare a room in their home, using a hepa filter for air if possible, or visiting libraries and community centres for cooler, filtered air to relieve smoke irritation.

In the southeast, the city of Kimberley was put on evacuation alert, with senior homes beginning to transfer patients who would not be able to leave quickly if fire threatened the community.

RELATED: Interior health evacuating Kimberley facilities

RELATED: B.C. communities wake up to heavy smoke, ash

The province announced Friday it will match public donations to the Red Cross fund to assist people displaced by wildfires. North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness, said donations will be matched up to $20 million, or until Oct. 12. Donations can be made at www.redcross.ca and at local Red Cross offices.

Canadian Forces Major Jeff Allen said a land task force of 200 troops and equipment has been deployed to the Okanagan to support firefighting efforts, with a field camp established at Merritt to assist with mop-up operations and allow provincial fire crews to move on.

Kevin Skrepnek, chief information officer for the B.C. Wildfire Service, said the weather forecast for the province remains “bone dry” into next week, with some rain possible in the Kootenay region after the weekend.

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