Looking east from Alberta toward B.C. McBride area on Saturday July 15. Photo Lorne Clarke. Cover Photo of Wildfire Sunset by Marianne Wall. Both Photographers from Vanderhoof, B.C.

Close to 40,000 BC wildfire evacuees plus 10,000 more on alert

High winds

Despite winds there was no significant growth of local lightening-caused wildfires in Prince George Fire Centre around Vanderhoof, Fort St James and Fraser Lake. The largest of three local fires, Sutherland Road, 10km north of Fort Fraser is 1,590 ha, 80% contained by 77 firefighters, 1 helicopter, 12 heavy equipment.

Fires in the Chilcotin became very aggressive on the weekend as a result of the wind gusts from the low front over the region. Evacuation orders and alerts were expanded as a result. Additional firefighting crews from outside the province are joining exisiting efforts.

Williams Lake

Saturday, July 15, Williams Lake was put on Evacuation Order. Several fires remain outside of Williams Lake and are not imminently threatening, however many power lines leading into the community were damaged or destroyed.

The majority of Williams Lake evacuees have been directed south via 100 Mile, then east to Little Fort, proceeding south to Kamloops with the overflow making their way to the lower mainland.

It’s estimated close to 40,000 people have evacuated and another 10,000 are on evacuation alert. In 2003 there were 50,000 people evacuated. The big difference this time is the number of communities spread over such a large area.

8,000 evacuees are already settled in Prince George, 13,000 new evacuees are headed elsewhere. Some to Lillooet, some to Barriere, many south to Kamloops and beyond. Thousands of dispaced residents are also headed to reception centres in Merrit, Vernon, Kelowna, Pentiction, Chilliwack, Surrey and to stay with relatives and friends all over.

It’s not just people being evacuated. The Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team is helping out as well.

As of Sunday morning 5,100 households had registered with Red Cross. “Registration was happening at a rate of about 5 per minute with a peak flow of 30 per minute. Initial assistance [$600 cash via electronic transfer] has already been actioned for [83%] of families that have registered. The funds are intended to provide a little more support for those who need it,” said Minister John Rustad, speaking as Minister of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations up until July 18.

Wildfire stats

As of Sunday July 16, 162 fires were burning across the province with 16 new starts on Saturday. To date 641 fires have burned an estimated 131,000 ha of land. There are 27 fires of note and 15 interface fires close to communities. Initial attack crews have been very effective in many areas making sure new starts are contained or put out. There are 2,900 people on the fire, 415 from outside B.C., 928 contractors, 203 aircraft supporting ground crews, and hundreds of ground equipment deployed fighting the fires, all costing $180 Million so far.

“Thank you for the patience of everyone who has been impacted by these fires. Evacuees, those on alerts, people in the receiving communities, business owners and many others have been great. The volunteers and those who have donated in various ways are truly amazing. We live in such a great province and country,” said Minister John Rustad.

Other local fires:

Big Bend Creek 75 km SW of Vanderhoof on Kluskus FSR. 2,062 ha, 0% contained by30 firefighters, 2 helicopters, 14 heavy equipment.

Tatelkuz Lake 118 km SW of Vanderhoof on Kluskus FSR, 1,270 ha, 30% contained by 23 firefighters, 2 helicopters, 6 heavy equipment.

– status as of going to press Sunday July 16, bcfireinfo.for.gov.bc.ca and BC Government conference call