July 15, 2017 1:53 pm
Updated: July 16, 2017 12:38 am

B.C. wildfire status Saturday: Crews brace for potentially stormy weekend

WATCH ABOVE: Wildfires in B.C. have forced more than 17,000 people to leave their homes. But people living in the path of one of the biggest fires in the province, say the evacuation order didn’t come soon enough. Catherine Urqhart reports.

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Fire crews across British Columbia are bracing for the worst as a potentially stormy weekend could see the number of evacuees in the province grow substantially.

Everyone is hoping the weather co-operates Saturday after progress was made on some of the 167 wildfires burning across the province.

Crews from Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island joined the more than 3,000 people battling the flames.

READ MORE: B.C. wildfires map 2017: Current location of wildfires around the province

There are more than 40,000 evacuees and more than 4,000 families registered with Red Cross.

WATCH: Loon Lake Evacuated as Ashcroft fire grows

New evacuation orders

The out-of-control Ashcroft Reserve fire grew overnight to more than 14,000 hectares in size.

People in the Loon Lake area of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District were ordered to evacuate the area, and an evacuation alert was issued for the Village of Clinton on Friday.

WATCH: On the front lines of the Ashcroft wildfire


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Village officials warned that residents should prepare for an evacuation order, noting that the fire was headed their way and “poses an imminent threat to people and property.”

Hundreds are on edge after a new round of evacuation alerts and notices were issued in the Cariboo region. An evacuation alert was issued Saturday for the Clisbako area.

An evacuation alert was also issued for the Big Creek area.

Weather conditions remain a concern

One of the biggest issues for officials is the wind as some areas could see gusts of up to 70 kilometres an hour on Saturday.

Crews have been preparing by conducting controlled burns all across B.C.’s central interior, desperately trying to get rid of anything that could fuel the flames.

Officials are warning there could be five more days of hot and dry conditions.

“Unfortunately, significant rain continues to elude the southern half of the province for the foreseeable future,” Environment Canada says.

WATCH: Lake Country neighbourhood devastated by wildfire

The winds have already been a challenge for crews fighting the Gustafsen wildfire near 100 Mile House.

Gusts blew more smoke into the town on Friday. Officials there are saying the fire is still 20 per cent contained.

Crews are being commended for not allowing the fire to jump Highway 97.

Concern growing in Williams Lake

Anxiety is rising in Williams Lake as a number of fires burn around the city.

An evacuation order for the City of Williams Lake and surrounding areas was issued Saturday afternoon. Forcing more than 20,000 people to leave their homes.

WATCH: Wildfire burning in Lake Country

The key concern is the White Lake fire, a 3,800-hectare blaze burning northwest of the city. Crews have contained about 60 per cent of the fire but fear it could jump the Fraser River and threaten homes if winds pick up.

Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb said RCMP were going door to door getting people ready to go.

Residents were being asked to use Highway 97 South as an evacuation route.

An evacuation order has also been issued for the Fraser River, Polley Lake, Moffat Creek and 150 Mile due to the wildfire threat in the area.

Evacuees heading to Kamloops are being asked to register at the new ESS centre at the Sandman Centre on 300 Lorne Street.

WATCH: Williams Lake still on evacuation alert, watching the weather

In the Chilcotin region, fires burning in Hanceville, west of Williams Lake, are now covering an estimated 40,000 hectares, forcing evacuations in several communities.

Many businesses in Williams Lake have already shut down due to a lack of customers.

Businesses across the central interior say they are being heavily impacted by a lack of tourism and spending.

The BC Wildfire Service is asking people to stay away from the backcountry to avoid triggering human-caused fires.

READ MORE: B.C. lakes closed because boaters are getting in the way of water bombers

Officials are also asking the public to stay off four lakes in the Cariboo region, specifically Williams Lake, Watson Lake, Lac La Hache and Horse Lake, so that firefighting aircraft have room to pick up water.

Even coastal communities aren’t immune to fire-prevention measures as fire danger ratings of “high” to “extreme” cover larger swaths of the region.

As of Saturday, the fire chiefs for the District of North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver and District of West Vancouver banned the use of barbecues at all parks and beaches.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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