Canada — About 1,200 residents of Fintry, B.C., were ordered to evacuate once again on Saturday, just two days after being allowed to return home.
Officials from the Regional District of Central Okanagan said the evacuation order was triggered by increased activity and behaviour of the Terrace Mountain wildfire. The blaze had been considered about 90 per cent contained.
Residents of Fintry were told to report to an emergency social services centre in West Kelowna.
Fintry is located on the west side of Okanagan Lake, about 35 kilometres north of Kelowna.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 residents of Lillooet remain on evacuation alert as a wildfire moved to within one kilometre of the town.
Crews braced themselves for an intense battle as the fire on Mount McLean, southwest of Lillooet, nearly tripled in size from an estimated 1,000 hectares last Monday to about 2,600 hectares on Saturday.
Officials said the blaze near the southwest Interior town, about 180 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, was in danger of growing even larger given the tinder-dry conditions and thunderstorms in the forecast for Saturday afternoon.
“The fire is burning on steep slopes above Lillooet and west of Lillooet in very, very dry conditions,” said fire information officer Gary Horley.
“The area is under an extreme drought and fuels are critically dry and easily combustible,” he said.
An evacuation order is in place for properties on the northeast shore of Seton Lake, an area east of the Silicon Indian Reserve 2, and Puck Creek.
Nearly 3,000 people in Lillooet, Shalalth, Seton Portage, and the First Nations community of T’it’qet were told to be ready to leave their homes at a moment’s notice.
Horley urged extreme caution in conditions he called unpredictable.
“Anything will start a fire right now. The fine fuels in the forests have less than two per cent moisture content and it doesn’t take anything to start a fire,” Horley said.
“It’s not just cigarettes, it’s any equipment that’s being operated motorcycles, ATVs, anything that’s a heat source. If a fire starts it’s almost impossible to stop it.”
B.C. premier urges travellers to avoid backcountry
Meanwhile, Premier Gordon Campbell issued a rare warning Friday, urging travellers to rethink their recreational plans this long weekend and avoid the backcountry.
In all, more than 500 wildfires are burning across British Columbia, where conditions are extremely dry and temperatures are in the high 30s.
People in nearly 80 homes in Pemberton Meadows, north of Pemberton, also remain on evacuation alert.
The danger rating in 85 per cent of the province is rated as high to extreme, with more lightning and high temperatures in the forecast.
It’s costing the province about $3 million a day to fight the forest fires.
Since April 1, more than 1,800 wildfires have started and half of them were caused by humans.
Elsewhere, a wildfire started by lightning on Thursday on Blackcomb Mountain near the ski resort of Whistler is smaller than first thought just 30 hectares and officials said Saturday morning the fire was about 50 per cent contained.
In the last few days, lightning has sparked more than 170 new forest fires in the province.
Provincial fire officer Kim Steinbart said obeying fire restrictions is “really critical right now.
“Everybody is affected by the forest fire season this year, whether they live in an area that backs onto forested lands or whether they like to go out and enjoy activities in forested regions, parks or in grasslands.
“So one thing we’re asking people to do is be aware of the conditions, and if they do have activities planned out in the backcountry regions to maybe consider alternatives,” she said.
Steinbart said a ban on open fires remains in effect throughout most of the province, with the exception of a few coastal areas.