The province has spent $90 million on fighting 188,928 hectares of wildfires since April 1.
Chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said 17 of those fires started on Sunday for a total of 159 currently burning in B.C. Since April 1, there have been 657 wildfires.
The total of hectares burned has already exceeded the 10-year provincial season average of 154,000 hectares. With 100,000 hectares burned over the season, 2016 was a ‘slow’ fire season, Skrepnek said, but noted that 2017 has yet to come close to the season highs reached over the past decade. In total, 2015 saw 280,000 hectares burned, 2016 saw 369,000 hectares, 2010 saw 337,000 and 2009 saw 247,000 hectares.
There are 27 ‘fires of note’ and 15 of the fires are threatening communities. Almost 3,000 BC Wildfire Service staff are working to fight those fires, including firefighters, support staff, over 450 out-of-province people, 1,000 forest service contractors.”
“On July 19, we are also going to be welcoming 50 personnel from Australia.” said Skrepnek. “These are not frontline firefighting position but specialists and support staff.”
This isn’t the first time Australia has helped out with B.C. wildfire fighting efforts – they previously came up in 2009, 2014 and 2015.
More than 200 aircraft are currently operational in the wildfire, including both helicopters and airtankers.
“We have made progress at putting some of the smaller fires out,” said Skrepnek, although noted that the number of current burning fires will fluctuate as the BC Wildfire Service combines fires into complexes.
The fires around Williams Lake have slowed down, he said.
“Certainly the weather on Sunday was quite a bit more mild than what we had been experiencing Saturday in terms of wind and temperatures,” said Skrepnek. The weather is expected to stay mild on Monday and Tuesday but the interior is forecasted to see lighting on Wednesday and thundershowers Thursday. Lightning can be a “double-edged sword,” Skrepnek said because while the rain is always welcome, lighting is a major cause of new wildfires.
Emergency Management BC deputy minister Robert Turner said that there was no update on the number of evacuees at the moment.
“I can say there has been a huge upsurge in registration with the Canadian Red Cross,” said Turner.
On Sunday, there were approximately 37,000 evacuees across B.C. Evacuees have begun to show up in the Lower Mainland; currently, there are 616 at the Cloverdale Arena evacuation centre and 330 people at the Chilliwack Secondary centre.
Turner confirmed that B.C. residents can refuse to evacuate as long as they are ‘competent’ adults, following multiple instances of people not leaving evacuation areas.
“It’s not illegal for them to stay,” said Turner.
He noted that EMBC is gearing up for a “prolonged” wildfire season and 11 emergency reception centres have been opened to handle the flow of evacuees.
RCMP Sgt. Annie Linteau said that 5,000 officers are helping out with the wildfire efforts and preparing for evacuation alerts to potentially turn in to orders.
“In zones where evacuation orders are in effect, we continue to provide 24/7 coverage,” said Linteau.
- Ashcroft Reserve – 52,600 ha. Growth mainly away from Cache Creek towards Loon Lake
- Little Fort east – 3,000 ha with 30 per cent containment
- Little Fort west – 565 ha with 50 per cent containment
- White Lake – 8,000 ha, slight growth in direction of Williams Lake. City not threatened
- Wildwood complex – 13,000 ha with 20 per cent containment
- Gustafsen – 5,700 ha with 25 per cent containment
- Lake Country – 50.3 hectares with 75 per cent containment