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Hundreds more overseas firefighters en route to British Columbia

Last Updated Aug 6, 2017 at 4:16 pm PDT

Juniper Beach Provincial Park, not far from the Elephant Hill fire. (Marcella Bernardo, NEWS 1130, Photo)

There were 127 wildfires burning across BC on Sunday

The Elephant Hill fire is still only 30 per cent contained, and 110,000 hectares in size

ASHCROFT (NEWS 1130) – With 127 wildfires burning across the province, firefighters aren’t expecting any relief for at least a week, and hundreds more overseas firefighters are on their way to help.

The BC Wildfire Service chief fire information officer, Kevin Skrepnek, says six new fires started on Saturday. He says crews are preparing for more hot and dry conditions, including thunderstorms this weekend and early in the week.

“Challenging conditions in terms of that lightning and new fire starts and really no real relief for the next week at least,” he says.

Skrepnek says hot and dry conditions will continue, and there’s no real relief in sight.

“We are expecting to be bringing in some additional out-of-province resources. (A) steady stream of people coming in and going over the coming weeks.”

More than 400 firefighters from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the US will arrive in BC over the next week. They’ll be a mix of specialized support staff and highly trained and experienced wildland firefighting crews.

The Elephant Hill fire, near Ashcroft, is still 110,000 hectares in size and just 30 per cent contained.

Skrepnek says it’s taking up significant resources.

“Currently on this fire alone we’ve got 488 firefighters, an incident management team, 92 structural protection personnel, 86 support staff, 22 helicopters and 105 pieces of heavy equipment.”

Evacuation orders and alerts are still in place in many parts of the province. Chris Duffy with Emergency Management BC says there are currently 32 orders and 43 alerts.

“The number of people estimated to be on evacuation order is just under 6,900. Number on evacuation alert estimated at 26,600.”

He says a fire 52 kilometres east of Bella Coola forced 75 people to leave their homes this weekend.

“Affecting residents around Anahim Lake, Charlotte Lake and Nimpo Lake.”

More out-of-province firefighters are expected in coming weeks.

Road closures are in place for some of BC’s bigger highways, including sections of Highway 1, Highway 95 and Highway 93.

Since April 1st, wildfires have burnt about 591,000 hectares of British Columbia- an area about the same size as Prince Edward Island.

Poor air quality continues in Lower Mainland

A Special Air Quality Statement is still in place for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Environment Canada says smoke from wildfires in the Interior is causing high concentrations of fine particulate matter in the air.

People with chronic medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted.

Exposure is particularly a concern for babies, the elderly, and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.