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Williams Lake under evacuation alert, 14,000 displaced by wildfires

Last Updated Jul 11, 2017 at 5:51 am PDT

Summary

More than 32,000 hectares have been scorched so far, roughly the size of Surrey

No relief in sight for the next three to five days

Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick are collectively sending in 300 personnel

KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) – More than 14,000 people have now been forced from their homes as BC’s firefighters contend with the first province-wide emergency in 14 years.

Another 10,000 people in the city of Williams Lake have been told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice as wildfires threaten the community.

“Generally, we’re still looking at a deteriorating situation,” says Bob Turner with Emergency Management BC. “We are looking at many weeks to come of a very challenging environment and public safety will remain the over-riding priority for the government and for the BC Wildfire Service.”

Currently, there are at least 218 wildfires are burning across BC, according to Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek with the BC Wildfires Service.

“That total numbers burning statistic shifts on a minute by minute basis,” said Skrepnek on Monday afternoon. “To reiterate, yes yesterday 29 new fires, and it was in the neighbourhood of 100 new fires on Saturday.”

About a dozen are considered interface fires, threatening buildings and other structures.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, close to 40,000 hectares have been scorched so far, but given all the smoke and the sheer number of fires, it’s hard to get an accurate account of the damage.

100 Mile House remains a key area of concern, where close to two thousand people were ordered to leave because of the five thousand hectare Gustafsen fire.

“There was a dramatic wind shift that led to the recommendation the district be evacuated.”

Thousands have been ordered out of their homes in the Cariboo around 100 Mile House, as well as Quesnel, Ashcroft, Princeton and Little Fort. It’s not clear how many have lost everything they own.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale offered extensive support from Ottawa.

“Things like cots and blankets and the human comforts that are required when people are dislocated in an evacuation,” says Goodale. “There are now 3,000 cots and 3,000 blankets that have been delivered.”

He is offering more support from Ottawa, but is also making it clear who’s in charge.

“The management of this situation is in the hands of the province of BC. They are the lead agency. If they say evacuate, as difficult as that is to do, please follow that advice. Do not put yourself in harm’s way.”

The federal government is also providing experts from Natural Resources to help map the fires. Meanwhile, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick are collectively sending in 300 personnel.

Fire officials say there is no relief in sight for the next three to five days as temperatures remain high, and unpredictable winds continue to push the fires out of control.

At least 258 of the 572 fires recorded so far this year have been human-caused, which is partly why campfire bans are in place across the province.

BC Hydro is reporting extensive damage to their power grid. Thousands of customers currently have no power in Cache Creek, Ashcroft, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House.

The early indication is that there’s damage to 170 power poles, 93 cross-arms, 90 spans of wire and 30 transformers. Those numbers are expected to rise as the emergency continues.

Some of the big fires around the region:

Cache Creek/Ashcroft
Estimated Size: 4,400 hectares
Evacuation Alerts/Orders: Entire village of Cache Creek has been ordered to evacuate, as well as many properties in the surrounding areas. For more, click here.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has declared a local state of emergency.

Sections of Highway 1 and Highway 97C have been blocked off near Ashcroft.

100 Mile House – “Gustafsen Fire”
Estimated Size: 5,000 hectares
Evacuation Alerts/Orders: 3,000+ people have been told to evacuate. For more, click here.

The wildfire near 100 Mile House in the southern Cariboo region has been spreading fast, forcing a number of people out of their homes and putting more on evacuation alert.

Two reception centres have been set up at the curling rink in 100 Mile House and the Ramada hotel in Williams Lake.

Wildwood area/Williams Lake Airport 

Estimated Size: 2,000 hectares
Evacuation Alerts/Orders:The Cariboo Regional District has issued evacuation orders for the Wildwood area because of this fire. A city wide evacuation alert has been issued for Williams Lake.

 

Princeton
Estimated Size: 1,500 hectares
Evacuation Alerts/Orders: Wildfire 10 kilometres north of Princeton has prompted the evacuation of hundreds of properties. A new mandatory evacuation order has been issued for 49 homes along Princeton Summerland Road north of Princeton

Chief William/150 Mile House

Estimated Size: 2,500 hectares
Evacuation Alerts/Orders: The wildfire one kilometre north of Chief William has caused evacuation orders to be issued for the South Lakeside area and Lexington Subdivision at Williams Lake. The evacuation order for 150 Mile House has also been updated.

Hanceville fires

Estimated Size: unknown

Evacuation Alerts/Orders:This incident involves numerous fires in a area of approximately 100,000 hectares. The Cariboo Regional District has issued an evacuation order for some residents along Highway 20 from 2.5 km west of Alexis Creek to 1 km east of Raven Lake Road. The order includes the communities of Alexis Creek and Hanceville.

Dragon Mountain

Estimated Size: 1,500 hectares
Evacuation Alerts/Orders: An evacuation alert has been issued by the Cariboo Regional district for properties near Dragon Mountain.

Drive BC has closed sections of several highways across the province because of forest fires. Updates on road closures can be found here.

For a full list of

If you see smoke, flames or any other fire concerns, call *5555 or 1-800-663-5555