There are currently 253 active wildfires in British Columbia, of which 38 are major wildfires. As of April 1, 2021, the BC Wildfire Service has responded to 1,231 forest fires, resulting in the burning of 4,250 square kilometers. “The 10-year average for this time of year is about 642 fires, or [1,050 square kilometres] burnt. So obviously we’re way ahead of the 10-year average, ”said Rob Schweitzer, BC Wildfire Service fire center operations manager.
Schweitzer said there was still plenty of wildfire season left, pointing out that this marked the midpoint.
“It will be a long season,” he said.
Thousands on evacuation order
There are currently 61 evacuation orders in effect across the province, covering 3,700 properties, which require people to vacate homes immediately. 85 other evacuation alerts, representing 18,000 properties, are in effect. These residents must be ready to leave at any time if an order is issued.
There are currently 21 reception centers supporting evacuees and 5,000 evacuees are currently registered.
Emergency Info BC has a complete list of drop-in centers.
As the fires rage, evacuees and returning residents eagerly await to see what condition their properties are in.
The Sparks Lake wildfire, which burns 15 kilometers north of Kamloops Lake, is approximately 590 square kilometers in area. Priscilla Kazarian, of the Thomson Nicola Regional District, said an initial aerial assessment found at least a dozen homes and cabins to have been damaged by fire. It is still too difficult to do an assessment on the ground at this time. An evacuation order for 298 properties remains in effect due to this forest fire.
Reluctance to evacuate a problem
Schweitzer said there were several reports of individuals disregarding evacuation orders last weekend. He says there were at least three incidents that required the hijacking of ground personnel and BC Wildfire planes in order to rescue stranded residents.
Many of the residents who have stayed behind are people who have lived on the land for decades and have already suffered from wildfires, but Schweitzer warned that it was not like the past.
“My message to them, even though you have lived on this earth for generations and a long period of time, even our seasoned firefighters are seeing behavior and conditions that we have never seen before in this generation,” he said. he declares.
“The conditions we are experiencing this year are among the most extreme ever in this province. “
He urged those on evacuation orders to heed these warnings in a timely manner.
A suspicious fire breaks out
RCMP have warned that up to four brush fires were deliberately started on Saturday in the Kootenay community of Salmo, near the intersection of Highways 6 and 3.
Fire crews were able to put out the fires, but officers said crews reported spotting a stranger fleeing the area
Three more fires were started in the same area on Monday.
“We really don’t want to use our BC Wildfire resources [for] fires that appear to have been caused intentionally, ”Staff Sergeant Janelle Shoihet said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Shoihet said anyone with information about the fires is urged to call Salmo RCMP or Crime Stoppers.
Weather forecasting a “mixed bag”
High temperatures are forecast for the weekend through the weekend, with temperatures in the interior of British Columbia reaching nearly 40 ° C.
The silver lining is that the stable weather regime will be useful for overall suppression efforts, and the absence of lightning will help reduce any new fire starts, Schweitzer said.
But it also means that the smoke will not dissipate.
British Columbia provincial health worker Dr Bonnie Henry said the heat and smoke present health concerns, especially for the very young, the elderly and the chronically ill.
Henry said it’s important to plan for cooling measures – like seeking air-conditioned shelter and shade, staying hydrated, and reducing activity in the cooler parts of the day.
And on the two health risks, she said keeping cool should be a priority.
“The heat is the most dangerous thing we see,” Henry said. “If we close the windows and it is too hot in the house because of the smoke, we also need to be aware of the heat. “