Princeton wildfire phots courtesy of Debbie Lyon.

UPDATE: Crews battle as wildfires rage in B.C. Interior

Crews brace for another day on B.C. firelines as no let up is likely

UPDATED: 11:30 a.m.

British Columbia’s political leaders were to meet Sunday with people forced out of their homes by wildfires that are threatening a number of communities in the province’s central interior.

Premier-designate John Horgan was to meet with some of the evacuees in Kamloops, where he’ll also visit emergency operations centres that are dealing with what his team called the “worsening wildfire crisis”. Outgoing premier Christy Clark was also set to visit Kamloops.

Ground and air crews are battling hundreds of out-of-control wildfires amid continuing hot, dry and often windy conditions that are making it a difficult struggle.

There are 230 active wildfires burning across the province, said Kevin Skrepnek, chief information officer for the BC Wildfire Service.

“It’s safe to say the majority of these fires are burning out of control,” he said.

The hardest-hit regions are the central and southern Interior. There are also a number of major blazes burning in northern B.C. but at this point they’re not posing as immediate a threat as the fires further south, he said.

A provincewide state of emergency was declared after more than 173 fires ignited Friday. The government said it would allow it to more easily coordinate a response to the crisis.

Related: More than 180 wildfires burning across B.C.

On Saturday, the winds eased slightly, but 98 new fires sprang up and existing fires grew in size, Skrepnek said.

The three biggest fires range in size from approximately 14 to 20 square kilometres and have forced thousands of people from their homes in the communities of Ashcroft, Cache Creek, 100 Mile House, 105 Mile House, 108 Mile House, 150 Mile House and the Alexis Creek area.

Precise evacuee numbers for the entire province were not immediately available Sunday, but the Cariboo Regional District estimated that as many as 6,000 people were forced from their residences. New evacuation orders affecting dozens of homes were issued on Sunday.

The province has been marshalling all the personnel it can to battle the flames, protect property and try to keep people safe.

More than 1,000 firefighters are on scene, supported by heavy equipment and helicopters. Another 600 personnel are backing them up, plus some 200 contractors. An additional 300 firefighters are being recruited from other parts of Canada and are expected to arrive in B.C. on Monday and Tuesday, Skrepnek said.

Despite the crews’ efforts, Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta said a fire burning between Ashcroft and Cache Creek had destroyed dozens of buildings, including at least five houses, 30 trailer park homes and two hangars at a regional airport.

“We have tremendous sympathy for the challenges we are all collectively facing,” Ranta said.

Hundreds of people gathered in a conference room at Thompson Rivers University Saturday evening where an information session was held for wildfire evacuees.

Rob Schweizer, manager of the Kamloops Fire Centre, said it had been an unprecedented 24 hours.

“We probably haven’t seen this sort of activity that involves so many residences and people in the history of the province of B.C.,” he said.

“I can only imagine what the last 24 hours have been like for the people here in this room. Our hearts go out to you. It’s a very stressful and trying time.”

Cliff Chapman, the deputy manager at the Kamloops Fire Centre, suggested Saturday was a day he’d never forget.

“I’ve been in this business for 17 years, from crew all the way up to where I am now, and I haven’t experienced a day like we experienced yesterday.”

Ground and air crews are preparing for another day battling dozens of out-of-control wildfires that drove thousands of residents from their homes in British Columbia’s central Interior.

The continuing hot, dry and often windy conditions are making it a desperate struggle, one that evacuees throughout the region are watching with increasing anxiety.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eleven dogs rescued; transported from Texas to the Okanagan despite pandemic

Helping Paws Okanagan rescued 11 dogs from Texas on March 28

FortisBC pausing power disconnections and late-fees amid COVID-19 crisis

Company says they plan to work with customers affected by COVID-19 on a “one on one” basis

Kelowna’s Father’s Day car show postponed

BOYD Autobody and Glass have made the decision to postpone the car show due to COVID-19

Migrant worker advocates blame government, employers for West Kelowna COVID-19 outbreak

Migrant farm worker group calls on government for adequate health and safety requirements

Central Okanagan Food Bank offers help to those struggling financially during pandemic

“Our message to everyone in this predicament is to please pay your bills and let us help you with your food.”

‘We don’t need this right now’: B.C. man breaks up road rage incident

Two men were throwing punches on Tillicum Road in Saanich on Vancouver Island

UPDATE: Coronavirus concerns prompt event cancellations across the Okanagan

This is a running list of events cancelled across the Okanagan

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Orchardists face challenges from COVID-19 pandemic

Physical distancing and availability of workers will affect fruit growing operations and harvest

COVID-19: ‘The Ballad of Bonnie Henry’ recorded and released

LISTEN: Quick turnaround for song penned by B.C. Order of Canada musician Phil Dwyer

HERGOTT: COVID-19 and legal issues

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

YMCA Okanagan offers virtual classes to keep community healthy in quarantine

This virtual offering, called Y Thrive Home, includes a variety of options for all ages

Princeton businesses donate protective equipment to local health-care workers

Princeton’s doctors, nurses and other health professionals, as well as care providers… Continue reading

Most Read