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B.C. wildfire status Saturday: Concerns mount as Elephant Hill wildfire grows to 110,000 hectares

Click to play video 'Wildfire smoke cancels the Red Bull Challenge in Whistler' Wildfire smoke cancels the Red Bull Challenge in Whistler
WATCH: Health officials report a significant increase in the number of people seeking medical attention because of poor air quality. The Red Bull challenge in Whistler has been cancelled due to this concern. Kristen Robinson has more – Aug 5, 2017

Concern is growing as the rapidly-moving Elephant Hill wildfire wreaks more havoc in B.C.’s central interior.

The province’s largest single fire has burned more than 110,000 hectares and heavy winds are expected to fan the flames again this weekend.

A local state of emergency has been declared for Copper Desert Country and an evacuation order has been issued for the Deadman Vidette area. There are evacuation alerts in the Tranquille Valley and Hat Creek areas.

Brutal conditions on the front lines of the fire continue to plague the 600-plus crew members battling the blaze.

Ground crews have spent the week trying to contain the fire’s north flank as unpredictable winds make it hard to make progress. Fire guards continue to be built with heavy equipment and areas that crews can’t access by foot are being blanketed in fire retardant.

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One of the main priorities for crews is to save the West Fraser Mill and structures immediately around it.

“We are throwing everything we have at it, but unfortunately the weather as it has been for the last month is simply not in our favour right now,” B.C. chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said.

He went on to say the blaze is the “highest-priority fire in the province right now.”

MAP: Where the wildfires are burning around B.C.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has an interactive map illustrating all evacuation alert and orders in the area.

Elsewhere, the Cariboo Regional District has issued an evacuation order for the north arm of Quesnel Lake.

An evacuation alert has also been issued for the Anahim Lake, Charlotte Lake and Nimpo Lake areas due to the 4,300 hectare Precipice wildfire which has begun to move eastward.

And in the Kootenays, an evacuation alert was issued for the Galena Bay area south of Revelstoke.

WATCH: Peachland fire being held at 3 hecatres

Click to play video 'Peachland area wildfire being held at 3 hectares' Peachland area wildfire being held at 3 hectares
Peachland area wildfire being held at 3 hectares – Aug 4, 2017

In the Okanagan, crews are trying to maintain the upper hand on a wildfire burning near Peachland.

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The fire sparked up Friday but it quickly roared into action as it started burning up tinder-dry trees.

It’s unknown how the fire started, but it’s believed to be around three hectares in size.

Despite the tough terrain crews think they have the edge in their fight.

“My neighbour said that around 3:30 he started hearing some shaking in his house, he actually thought it was an earthquake, but it was a couple of bombers flying low, starting to dump on the fire,” Peachland resident Marty Bieksa said.

“They were actually attacking it really good, real fast. There was about four or five tankers right off the bat that came within 10 to 15 minutes,” resident Raymond Fedrow said.

The fire came within a kilometre of homes.  While no one was forced out, residents said they were packed up and ready to leave.

Emergency responders as well as commercial or industrial users are also exempt.

Air quality leads to race cancellation

The smoke hanging over southern B.C. isn’t going anywhere for a few days.

Smoke is blanketing Metro Vancouver and many other regions on Saturday, and is not expected to clear up until after the B.C. Day long weekend.

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One of Vancouver’s top respirologists says the air quality in parts of B.C. is worse than Beijing. Doctor Don Sin said it’s rare that the air in China, one of the most polluted countries in the world, is better to breathe than here.

Smoky conditions led to the cancellation of the Red Bull 400 race in Whistler, B.C.

Registered participants will receive a full refund or have their registration fees put towards next year’s race, according to a statement from race organizers.

Off-road vehicles restricted in backcountry

Effective at noon on Friday, Aug. 4, off-road vehicles for recreational purposes are prohibited throughout the Cariboo Fire Centre, Kamloops Fire Centre and Southeast Fire Centre. In addition, all on-highway vehicles must remain on defined road surfaces.

This step is being taken to help prevent human-caused wildfires and protect public safety.
While jeeps, trucks and other on-highway vehicles are permitted on designated roads, they are not allowed off-road.

The prohibition of off-road vehicles and on-highway vehicles does not apply to private lands or national parks. It also does not apply to emergency responders or to agriculture or commercial/ industrial users who operate vehicles for farming, emergency response or business purposes.

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You can find a larger version of the map of affected areas here.

– With files from Amy Judd

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