With 49 evacuation orders and 23 evacuation alerts in effect, 11 emergency reception centres in operation, and 36,600 people affected so far, British Columbia is in the midst of its toughest fire season since 2003—and things may get considerably worse before they get better.
This year “is in many ways a more complicated response because of the geographic scope,” and even now, “we’re at the beginning of the fire season,” said Robert Turner of Emergency Management B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone “says the early start to the 2017 fire season means there will be risk for some time to come and vigilance will be required,” CBC reports.
Forestry Minister John Rustad said the province has already spent more than C$80 million on forest fires this season, with about 2,900 firefighters and 203 aircraft fighting the blazes.
The latest evacuation order hit Williams Lake around 6 PM Saturday, with fire officials worrying that an expected cold front would bring high winds and the possibility of lightning strikes. CBC also reported new evacuation orders in the Central Interior communities of Loon Lake and Big Creek, and in rural areas around Clisbako, McCarthy Lake, 150 Mile House, Moffat Creek, Polley Lake, Clinton, and 70 Mile House.
“The B.C. Wildfire Service reported 161 wildfires burning in the province on Saturday at midday, including 14 that pose a threat to structures,” CBC reported. “That’s down from the more than 200 that were burning last weekend, but the weather forecast means more could be coming.” Environment Canada was calling for winds up to 50 kilometres per hour, and B.C. Wildfire Service spokesperson Kevin Skrepnek said those gusts could cause existing or new fires to grow “quite aggressively”.