Weather is still playing a crucial role in the battle against the 160 wildfires across British Columbia that have displaced more than 37,000 people.
Thousands of people have been evacuated out of Williams Lake and the surrounding areas as a windy Saturday blew a number of fires closer to the city.
Officials said that while the flames haven’t reached Williams Lake, an evacuation order was issued because the fire threatened to cut exit routes.
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“Fire activity within the entire Cariboo region did pick up quite significantly yesterday,” wildfire information officer Navi Saini said. “We had very strong winds in the area, which has fueled the flames.
“We did have good news this morning that the fire is not threatening Williams Lake at this time. It did cross the Fraser River but as of this morning it has not reached Williams Lake. ”
Officials also confirmed the White Lake fire jumped the highway overnight, forcing officials to scuttle their original plan to have Williams Lake evacuees head north to Prince George. They were re-routed to Kamloops.
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Cariboo Regional District Chairman Al Richmond said Kamloops is “stretched,” and because evacuees are also coming from Loon Lake, it will only get worse.
He said they’re concerned about overloading the centre and he’s urging all evacuees to call the Red Cross, which is helping co-ordinate the efforts.
The Ashcroft Reserve fire grew substantially over the last 24 hours and is now more than 42,000 hectares in size.
Fire information officer Ellie Dupont said the blaze has gone through a few towns, but she could not say how many buildings were destroyed.
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She said the fire is burning very aggressively because of the weather, the dry fuel and the region’s topography. Every specialist who has come in to work on the fire over the past week has made a comment about how “nasty” the fire is, she said.
“It’s complex,” Dupont said. “It’s making it difficult to fight the fire and to keep everyone safe so they’ve giving out a lot of evacuation alerts and orders so we can remove that threat and get in there and work properly on the fire without any worry of people being in the path.”
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Officials said numerous homes have been lost after a grass fire was sparked in Lake Country between Kelowna and Vernon. The fire is now 80 per cent contained.
More than 300 homes had to be evacuated as the rapidly-spreading flames quickly scorched 30 hectares of land. Approximately 650 homes remain on alert.
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Some cities in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley are also gearing up to accept up to 13,000 wildfire evacuees. The City of Surrey opened up an emergency centre at the Cloverdale Arena on Friday. Chilliwack is also preparing to take in evacuees, opening up dozens of spaces at Chilliwack Secondary School.
The Chilliwack Fire Department said they have helped 134 evacuees this week alone.
– With files from The Canadian Press
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