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Crews keep flames away from City of Williams Lake

Last Updated Jul 17, 2017 at 4:56 pm PDT

(Photo courtesy BC Wildfire Service via Twitter)

More than 160 wildfires were burning across the province over the weekend

KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) – Crews who are battling wildfires across the province say the situation –for the most part– is stable.

While flames surround much of Williams Lake, Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek with the BC Wildfire Service says fires have not entered the city itself.

Though their work isn’t over yet, crews say the situation is better now than it was over the weekend.

“Certainly the weather yesterday on Sunday was quite a bit more mild than what we had been experiencing on Saturday in terms of winds, in terms of temperatures as well. Certainly a lot of active fires still, but definitely a decrease in behaviour yesterday.”

“Our first priority, in terms of fighting fires today as it has been since this situation arose a week and a half ago, is protecting the safety of the public, protecting the safety of our first responders and again, keeping those evacuation routes open,” adds Skrepnek. 

Officials say BC’s devastating wildfire season could continue to challenge crews and displace families for weeks, as hot and dry conditions persist.

A provincial state of emergency remains in place for the province. The last time BC declared a state of emergency was in 2003, when 50,000 people were forced to evacuate fire zones.

There are now an estimated 37,000 people out of their homes, with no word on when they’ll be allowed to go back.

Meanwhile, the province has now called on international support to help local crews fight fires.

About 50 wildfire personnel are expected to arrive in Vancouver from Australia, and will be deployed throughout BC as required, according to the province.

There are already more than 1,600 provincial staff, 940 contractors and over 450 out-of-province personnel active across BC.

Loon Lake

About 40 kilometres north of Cache Creek, the Ashcroft Reserve fire tore through Loon Lake. That fire has been burning since July 6th, and is now 42,300 hectares in size.

Todd Stone is the minister responsible for Emergency Management.

“The uncertainty that these folks feel, the unknown that is I’m sure occupying most of them. The concern of families and the kids, and worrying about their pets. The uncertainty of not knowing if their home will be standing when they go back,” he says.

While resources are starting to strain, Stone says no evacuees will be turned away.

Williams Lake

The White Lake wildfire burning just west of Williams Lake jumped the Fraser River on Saturday and is now blazing just seven kilometres west of the city.

High winds over the weekend pushed the flames toward Williams Lake, prompting an evacuation order.

A sawmill, one of the city’s major employers, stands in the path of the fire and crews are working to protect that business.

Evacuees from Williams Lake began arriving in Kamloops yesterday, but that city is reaching the limits of its resources and some of the Williams Lake evacuees have been encouraged to head to a reception centre in Kelowna.

Lake Country

Officials say the wildfire that has destroyed eight homes in Lake Country, just north of Kelowna, was human caused.

Lake Country Fire Chief Steve Windsor says the fire started Friday along a road in the community, but what sparked it is still under investigation.

Along with the eight homes, Windsor says some outbuildings were lost but no one was hurt, although more than 300 homes were ordered evacuated at the height of the 55-hectare blaze.

The fire is now 80 per cent contained and evacuation orders and alerts were dropped last night for all but 69 properties.