B.C. wildfire status Tuesday: Williams Lake remains under evacuation alert
Despite slightly calmer winds, a province-wide state of emergency remains in place due to the wildfires burning across B.C.
Thousands of people have already been evacuated from their homes, about 14,365 in total, and according to new numbers from the B.C. Wildfire Service, there are 202 fires burning about 70,000 hectares across the province.
More than 1,000 firefighters have been employed in the fight against the wildfires with 300 coming from out of province. In addition to firefighters, there are 200 helicopters flying across the province and nearly 40 fixed-wing aircraft including air tankers.
WATCH: The number of evacuees could effectively double, now that the 10,000 residents of Williams Lake have been put on evacuation alert. Tanya Beja reports.
Premier-designate John Horgan said Tuesday he would return to the fire zones at the end of the week to meet again with evacuees and get a second look a the damage.
And now, an entire community is being told they may have to leave at a moment’s notice.
The city of Williams Lake has been put on evacuation alert, meaning no one has to leave yet, but should be prepared to do so.
An alert was issued due to “weather events that are being forecast for Wednesday.”
It’s expected that weather could push fires currently burning west of Williams Lake toward the city at a “rapid pace,” according to a notice posted on Facebook.
LISTEN: Jon McComb speaks about the latest on the B.C. wildfires
Some people are not waiting for the order and left Monday night. The mayor of Williams Lake is urging everyone who chooses to leave to first check in at the emergency reception centre at Lake City Secondary School.
“Be prepared because if an evacuation happens you will be driving,” said Mayor Walter Cobb. “You gotta go all the way to Prince George. And you don’t want to be tired. There’s going to be a lot of traffic on the road, almost like a convoy.”
“Be safe, drive safe, don’t be impatient.”
However, others, like Sue Lachance, are in no hurry to leave. She owns New World Coffee, one of the few businesses with the doors still open.
“The most often heard thing is thank you so much for being open,” she said.
“The diehards like us, we’re going to stay until we’re forced to leave. When they call the evacuation then we will leave.”
WATCH: Evacuation alert continues for Williams Lake
FULL COVERAGE: Wildfires burning around B.C.
One hundred kilometres west of Williams Lake, one community is refusing to obey evacuation orders.
Nearly a third of the people in the Anaham First Nation have remained, despite an evacuation order. They have been living with no phone service and limited supplies.
The chief says this is the third evacuation order in eight years for the band and in the past it has only caused stress and grief.
LISTEN: Wildfire evacuees pour into Prince George
Volunteers are going door-to-door to help provide essentials to the elders and those with physical challenges.
Many volunteers are also fighting the fires.
“We are not disobeying the law,” Chief Joe Alphonse from the Tl’etinqox First Nation told Global News. “They don’t want to leave. We may not have a lot but what we have, we are proud of and we want to fight for what we have and what we have left.”
In 100 Mile House, the entire district remains under evacuation order as the Gustafsen wildfire continues to burn, already scorching an estimated 5,000 hectares.
WATCH: Here’s how you can help evacuees
Residents told Global News they are frustrated by the lack of information from officials. “They should have come and told us,” said one resident. “They should have gone door-to-door, that’s how they’ve always done it in the past.”
When the evacuation order was announced, several key highways were already closed, forcing a rancher to open his property so vehicles could find a way out.
100 Mile House is now a ghost town, save for one resident who stayed to defend his heritage property even though the fire line is less than a kilometre away.
Meanwhile, a wildfire north of Princeton has grown to 2,700 hectares and remains zero per cent contained.
This fire is currently classified as “out of control” by the B.C. Wildfire Service.
Numerous evacuation orders or alerts are already in place. At least two homes have already been destroyed.
The Ashcroft fire grew to 7,300 hectares and numerous evacuation orders remain in place.
The B.C. Wildfire Service says structures have been lost due to this fire but it has not been determined how many at this time.
WATCH: Winds in the forecast could fuel blazes near Williams Lake
The Cariboo Regional District has expanded an evacuation order to cover the Alexis Creek and West Fraser areas, in addition to the Kleena Kleene region.
These are in addition to evacuation orders or alerts for some areas of Little Fort, 150 Mile House, Loon Lake, properties near Dragon Mountain, Naltesby Lake and Fort Fraser. It is advised to check your regional district’s website for a complete listing.
There has been some confusion surrounding an evacuation order in the District of Clearwater.
Mayor John Harwood confirmed to Global News that the district is not under an evacuation alert. However, a portion remains under evacuation alert as previously issued:
- 415, 421, 425, 427, 429, 436, 479, 480, Clearwater Station Rd
- 91, 113, 220, 446, 450, 460 Dunn Lake Rd
As the wildfires continue to burn, the number of evacuees continues to grow.
Many of them are arriving in Prince George.
Evacuees from 100 Mile House made it to the reception centre on Monday after spending a night on the road.
WATCH: Confusion adding to stress for wildfire evacuees
More than 2,700 people have taken refuge in the city since the wildfires broke out and the two centres are getting full.
A third centre will be opening as more evacuees are expected on Tuesday.
The community has welcomed them with open arms and now the evacuees are just waiting to find out what happens next.
Meanwhile, the first Alberta crews called in to help B.C. crews arrived on Monday.
Help has poured in from across Canada three days after wildfires prompted B.C. to declare the province-wide state of emergency.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.