No end in sight for B.C. wildfires, one month since state of emergency declared

Wildfire conditions remained ‘static’ during the long weekend but fires still a concern through August

(BC Wildfire Service)

Tuesday marks one month since the province declared a state of emergency, as hundreds of wildfires engulf B.C.’s interior with no clear end in sight.

Historically, August is the worst month in the wildfire season, but July’s unusually high heats and stormy weather has already made 2017 the second worst fire season in B.C.’s known history.

Since April 1, crews have responded to 904 fires in the province, burning an estimated 604,000 hectares of land, according to BC Wildfire Service chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek – about the size of Prince Edward Island.

This past weekend gave fire crews a reprieve to rapid spreading wildfires, as winds slowed and people obeyed restrictions on off-roading and campfire bans.

But Skrepnek urged residents to remain vigilant and mindful of the tinder-dry conditions.

RELATED: Williams Lake man fined after allegedly celebrating returning home with fireworks

“We definitely are concerned people are going to become complacent,” he said. “It is only early August and this is typically our busiest period for fire activity.”

Wildfires by the numbers

There are 146 active wildfires burning, primarily in the Cariboo and Kamloops Fire Centres, with crews focusing on 26 larger-scale fires.

The biggest concern remains the Elephant Hill fire now burning near Clinton at an estimated 117,170 hectares in size.

More than $240 million has been spent on fighting the raging fires, as well as the efforts of thousands of firefighters – some international – digging into hot ground, building fireguards while air crews attack with water and fire retardant.

RELATED: Winds continue to control wildfires in the Cariboo

For more than 40,000 Cariboo and Interior residents, the month anniversary marks tireless and stressful weeks of living in tents, cots and couch surfing with friends and families – some still not allowed back into their communities.

And while many are back in their homes, the heavy smoke blanketing all corners of the province serves as a reminder many of the regions remain on evacuation alert – told to be prepared to leave at any given time.

Fighting fire with fire

RELATED: Clinton-area residents say controlled burn went ‘horribly wrong’

The statement issued Sunday by local ranchers said one of them remains uncertain how many of his 100 cows were killed in the blaze near Clinton, B.C., which was started by embers blown over a highway from a controlled burn.

“I’m numb, I just can’t get my head around it,” Greg Nyman said in the statement. “Most of my cows are either burnt up or going to die from their injuries.”

Nyman said he doesn’t blame crews on the front lines of the fires, but management for making the call to start the burn.

Ranchers and rural residents say they want to see an apology from government officials for the failed controlled burn and compensation for any livestock killed and rural property damaged as a result of fires.

Skrepnek has previously said wildfires of such large scale can’t be fought with just water and retardants, and planned ignitions are necessary to get rid of fuels that allow fires to spread.

On Monday, Skrepnek said the BC Wildfire Service has been in touch with the ranchers and there is a mechanism within the Wildfire Act to entitles people to compensation.

Firefighting remains the priority, but Robert Turner of Emergency Management BC said a program to rebuild damaged fences is already underway and a commercial livestock relocation program is available to those who need to temporarily move animals away from affected areas.

“There’s a lot of work been going on to support agriculture generally and ranchers particularly,” he said.

With files from Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Skid Steer stolen from Sparwood Transfer Station

Elk Valley RCMP are seeking the public’s assistance with a theft that… Continue reading

Golf pro has big plans for Sparwood Golf Course

Golf pro looks to a promising future for golf in Sparwood

Ghostriders show grit and tenacity

Hard work and heartbreak; a reoccurring theme in Fernie’s past two hockey… Continue reading

Fernie Swim team aims for Nationals

Aidan Chudleigh has high hopes for his swim team this year, and… Continue reading

Jaffray Area OCP goes to public hearing

The public hearing will be held November 22nd at 7:00 PM at the Jaffray Community Hall.

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

Sparwood florist to compete nationally

The Maple Leaf Cup; where art and flower design meet under one… Continue reading

‘An officer and a gentleman’: Const. John Davidson is laid to rest

Thousands attend memorial service for slain Abbotsford Police officer

VIDEO: Coquihalla closed both directions near Merritt

Detours are available via Hwy. 8 and Hwy. 1

VIDEO: The Last Jedi is going to be the longest ‘Star Wars’ movie yet

Newest movie in the franchise will beat Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week.

PHOTOS: Procession and funeral for Const. John Davidson

Thousands attended celebration of life for Abbotsford police officer

B.C. Liberal leadership candidates debate different paths for party

Third debate held Sunday, Nov. 19 at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre

Apology to Canadians persecuted for being gay coming Nov. 28: Trudeau

Thousands were fired from the military, RCMP and public service because of their sexual orientation

Most Read