British Columbia flames impact Calgarians – .

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British Columbia flames impact Calgarians – .


“We couldn’t see anything from Lake Louise to Kelowna, no mountain was even visible, it’s the thickness of the smoke”

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Some Calgarians are feeling the heat of the 300 or so wildfires burning in the interior of British Columbia.

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The fires led British Columbia to enter a provincial state of emergency on Wednesday. The move aims to help the province prepare for possible mass evacuations as severe forest fires continue to threaten communities.

Calgarian Liz Peterson said she and her husband were reluctant to travel to British Columbia due to worsening fire conditions, but wanted to see her newborn grandson in Kelowna.

On Wednesday they ran a gauntlet of fire, thick smoke and detours back to Calgary. The return route on Route 97A is closed due to a wildfire south of Sicamous at Two Mile Creek that has put most of the town on evacuation order or on alert.

“We made a detour from Kelowna to Salmon Arm. You could see the whole side of the mountain was on fire, although during the day it mostly looks like smoke rising, ”said Peterson.

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“There are literally fires everywhere. Osoyoos is on fire, the mountain next to Three Valley Gap is on fire, ”she said.

“We couldn’t see anything from Lake Louise to Kelowna, no mountain was even visible, it’s the thickness of the smoke. “

Scientists say climate change has intensified the extreme heat that has hit western Canada in the past month, contributing to an increased risk of wildfires.

According to the government of British Columbia, 40 evacuation orders are in effect in the province, affecting approximately 5,700 people. Another 69 evacuation alerts, which tell people to be ready to leave their homes on short notice, affect nearly 33,000 people.

The situation could worsen during the week, the BC Wildfire Service said in a bulletin, with windy conditions inside creating a risk of the flames spreading.

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“The rate of fire spread is likely to increase and the direction of fire growth can change quickly on some forest fires,” the bulletin said.

Smoke rises from a wildfire near Osoyoos on Tuesday.
Smoke rises from a wildfire near Osoyoos on Tuesday. Photo de TWITTER @DylanGaleas via REUTERS

Glenn Fawcett is the President of Black Hills Estate Winery, located just north of Osoyoos in the Okanagan Valley.

On Monday, they were placed on evacuation alert following the Nk’Mip Creek forest fire and have been closed to the public since. There has been no effect yet, but Fawcett said vineyard owners in the valley are monitoring the situation closely.

“Most of the fires have affected the hills and mountains, but none of the buildings in the winery, to my knowledge, and none of the vineyards have been affected by the flames,” he said.

“The main loss at this crossroads is tourism. This is the short term effect. And I guess the longer term perspective as these wildfires continue to spread is a big retarder for people to come to the valley. What impact this will have overall, we probably won’t know until September, when the smoke clears.

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Fawcett said his winery has become increasingly accustomed to bypassing wildfires, after several difficult seasons over the past half-decade.

The surrounding landscape, however, helps isolate the wine region from the flames.

“Most of the area around the vineyard is scrub, antelope scrub, black sagebrush, which burns very quickly and is gone,” Fawcett said. “It’s not like there is a huge forest of trees that creates a big critical mass like a forest fire. These are rapid grass fires coming in and going out.

Calgarian Elsa Gretton said cottage owners at Lake Mara, near Sicamous, nervously watched a fire that broke out near the northern Okanagan town on Tuesday, cutting off Route 97A, their most direct route to the Trans-Canada Highway

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“Everyone is really nervous about which direction the wind is blowing,” said Gretton, 20, who is staying at her boyfriend’s family’s summer home south of Sicamous.

“The smoke is still rising and the road is still closed. It’s pretty crazy.

“We were not evacuated but we must be vigilant. “

The fire has cut power to the area several times, and the Sicamous restaurant where she works is the only business in the area open, she added.

Peterson said non-essential indoor travel isn’t worth it at this time.

“I wouldn’t recommend traveling,” Peterson said. “I just want to go home. “

An RCMP truck drives past the remains of vehicles and structures in Lytton, British Columbia on July 9.
An RCMP truck drives past the remains of vehicles and structures in Lytton, British Columbia on July 9. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS / Darryl Dyck

Route 1 remains closed due to wildfires in both directions between Hope and Lytton, where two people died earlier this month in a blaze that destroyed around 90% of the village.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 299 active wildfires in British Columbia; about a third were considered to be out of control.

So far in 2021, wildfires have burned more than 3,000 square kilometers of land in British Columbia. This is about three times the amount burned at this time of year on average over the past decade.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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Twitter: @jasonfherring

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Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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