Canada — Fire officials in B.C. have issued several new wildfire evacuation orders as an approaching storm front threatens to worsen the situation.
The cold front moving across the province is forecast to bring strong winds and lightning on Wednesday and Thursday but no rain and officials worry the weather system will fan extreme forest fire activity.
About 279 forest fires are burning across British Columbia, and about 71 per cent of the province is rated at high or extreme risk for forest fires.
“We’ve had very active wildfires burning around the province for a number of weeks now, and it has been very dry and very hot,” said provincial fire information officer Gwen Eamer.
“So, once you add in some very gusty winds to that, you can have a critical situation.”
The continued hot dry conditions on Tuesday prompted officials to issue new evacuation orders and expand existing evacuation orders in several areas in the Interior.
An additional 155 families near the Bull Canyon fire around Alexis Creek, west of Williams Lake, have been evacuated, while residents in 306 homes in and around Anahim Lake, 200 kilometres west of Alexis Creek, have been ordered out because of the Heckman Pass blaze.
Nearly 450 properties sandwiched between the two new evacuations have been placed on alert, while 25 homes on the edge of the Tsacha Lake wildfire, north of Anahim Lake, have been added to evacuation orders.
Officials have issued a warning to backcountry hikers and other recreational users to stay out of the woods during this period of extreme fire danger. They may issue an outright ban on backcountry travel if the conditions worsen. Roads closed
Highway 20 remains closed in both directions about 80 kilometres east of Bella Coola, cutting off road access to the North Coast community. Farther north, Highway 37 remains closed just south of the Yukon border.
Existing evacuation orders and alerts for the Binta Lake and Chisholm Lake area of the Bulkley-Nechako region have also been expanded. A new evacuation order and alert was issued for the Dean River area on the Central Coast.
People living in the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, a small community west of Prince George, have fires burning to the east and the west.
The nearby Binta Lake Fire has now grown to roughly 7,000 hectares, and residents are preparing to leave the area if necessary.
“The roads have been closed,” said Mike Robertson, a spokesman for the Cheslatta Carrier Nation. “The one out Binta way is engulfed in fire; nobody is out there.”
The only way out of the community now is a 50-minute ferry across nearby François Lake that is now running 24 hours a day.
“People are concerned with their property, and they are packing up valuable things and getting ready to leave,” he said.
Eileen Benedict, with Bulkley-Nechako regional district, said the reserve isn’t on evacuation alert yet but she said residents should prepare for the possibility.
Benedict and other regional districts are encouraging anyone who has been evacuated to register with the district once they leave their homes.