A helicopter sprays the wildfire in Princeton. A helicopter sprays the wildfire in Princeton. (Black Press)

Wildfires burn 78,000 hectares across B.C.

Rate of new fires slowing down

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 36 fewer wildfires burning across B.C. compared to yesterday, according to chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek.

Crews have been able to better map the fire borders today, Skrepnek said, leading to the apparent growth in hectares burned.

RELATED: Interactive map paints B.C. wildfire picture

The outlook province-wide is better today than it was yesterday, Skrepnek noted. There are 183 fires burning in B.C. today, down from 219 yesterday. In total, there have been 602 fires since April 1; 12 of those started today.

“Yesterday was a good day compared to what we’ve been seeing,” said Skrepnek. “Going into this weekend there is a potential for some gusty winds. We are keeping a close eye on that.”

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Skrepnek said that while firefighters have been making progress against the flames blanketing B.C., they are pacing themselves for a potentially long fire season.

Crews are in a good place right now but it is only July 12,” said Skrepnek. “We’re currently at 300 [out-of-province] personnel right now.”

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There are 37 fixed wing aircraft currently in the BC Wildfire Service fleet, including 13 additional aircraft the service has brought in, and approximately 200 helicopters.

There are no plans to hire the Hawaii Mars for this firefighting season, Skrepnek noted.

“There are simply more effective aircraft that are available,” he said.

RELATED: Province says no to Hawaii Mars

Speaking to the photos on social media showing firefighters at a campfire despite the campfire zone, Skrepnek said that the issue will be investigated.

“We are aware of those images,” Skrepnek said. “The ministry is taking the matter very seriously.”

Emergency Management BC deputy minister Robert Turner said that 7,886 people have registered at local emergency social services centres and 3,500 are taking advantage of the emergency lodging available.

Hot, dry and windy weather continues to be expected across the B.C. interior, Skrepnek noted and out-of-province firefighters have been added to beef up B.C.’s ranks. Turner said that 150 fire departments from across B.C. have offered their help and a total of 22 have been deployed. Canadian Forces personnel are on standby but Turner said that they will be a “last resort.”

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While much of the wildfire zone remains smoky, BC Centre for Disease Control data shows that the air quality has improved somewhat.

It’s the first time we’ve seen blue skies [in Kamloops] in a few days,” said Skrepnek.

“[The smoke]hasn’t been a significant hindrance,” said Skrepnek. “It was never to the point where the [Kamloops] airport has been closed down.”

RCMP officers from all around the province are being deployed to the southeast and north districts, Sgt. Annie Linteau said.

“Those officers are there to supplement the officers already there on the ground,” said Linteau, adding that the redistribution of officers won’t affect policing in other areas of B.C.

“As of yesterday, there had been 300 additional members that had or will be deployed.”

On Wednesday, RCMP officers from Alberta have also been sent to help out.

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Speaking to the incidents of looting that have been reported upon, Linteau said the RCMP are monitoring those closely.

“I can confirm that those incidents are somewhat isolated,” said Linteau. “We invite anyone who sees suspicious activity to phone their local police detachment immediately.”


@katslepian

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