July 12, 2017 9:33 am
Updated: July 13, 2017 9:23 am

B.C. wildfire status Wednesday: All eyes on the weather

ABOVE: Ongoing coverage of the wildfires around B.C. When it goes to black, we are in commercial break and will be right back.

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The state of emergency in B.C. continues Wednesday as 183 wildfires burn across the province.

There are now 22 wildfires of note in B.C.

In an update Wednesday afternoon, Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek said the total area now burned by fires is 78,000 hectares, twice yesterday’s estimate.

The increased estimate stems from the fact the fire service has had time to more accurately assess the size and scope of the province’s wildfires across the province, not because of significant fire growth, Skrepnek said.

WATCH: Little Fort fire from the air

The big story today is the weather. Multiple communities are closely watching the skies to see if the weather could force more wildfires and evacuation orders.

In the Cariboo region specifically, Global BC meteorologist Mark Madryga says there is the potential for some afternoon lightning that could be associated with gusty winds.

He says the main weather concern Wednesday is the risk of afternoon and early evening lightning strikes with little or no rain associated in the Williams Lake area and the rest of the Central Interior. There is smaller chance of lightning 100 Mile area.

WATCH: Ashcroft residents return


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Meanwhile, in the Ashcroft and Kamloops area, crews can expect sunshine and hot weather with a southwest breeze picking up Wednesday afternoon to 25 km/h.

Madryga says the weather forecast will likely be the same on Thursday, while Friday looks sunny and hot in the Cariboo and Southern Interior.

However, Madryga says Saturday afternoon could be a problem with long range weather charts showing a stronger front late Saturday with a greater chance of lightning and especially brisk westerly winds in the Cariboo.

But even without lightning, the biggest challenge is still the wind and there are a number of areas of concern.

FULL COVERAGE: Wildfires burning around B.C.

B.C. wildfire crews are keeping a close eye on two blazes fewer than 25 kilometres from Quesnel.

Williams Lake remains under evacuation alert this morning. Residents are being told to prepare for the worst and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, especially if the wind picks up. Crews are desperately trying to get a handle on the cluster of fires outside Williams Lake. Gas station lines remain long and many grocery store shelves are emptying out by the day. Buses are set up to quickly shuttle people to Prince George and there’s also an evacuation centre set up at Lake City Secondary School.

WATCH: Williams Lake on edge amid evacuation alert

Bob Turner of Emergency Management BC says the province is preparing for the possibility of mass evacuations.

He says if an evacuation order goes into effect in Williams Lake, people will be sent north on Highway 97 to Prince George, but Canadian Armed Forces aircraft and helicopters are also standing by in case airlifts are necessary.

WATCH: Animal evacuations add to the stress

Turner says the province’s priority is public safety and he encourages people to heed evacuation orders when they are issued.

READ MORE: B.C. wildfire status Tuesday: Williams Lake remains under evacuation alert

100 Mile House remains evacuated due to the Gustafsen Wildfire and will be for at least one more week.

Residents are not giving up without a fight however as 40 loggers are building a long fireguard on the east side of Highway 97. Bulldozers are cutting a big swath of land so the fire can’t jump it. Any brush around the fireguard is being burned to eliminate any fuel for a wildfire.

Ashcroft is still under threat as is Princeton. Little Fort has been downgraded from an order to an alert but officials are also watching that fire closely.

Full list of wildfires of note with evacuation orders and alerts

The number of evacuees due to the wildfires is now up to 16,000 this morning.

B.C. wildfire photos: Images show devastation as fires ravage parts of B.C.

-With files from The Canadian Press

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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