August 8, 2018 5:49 pm

More wildfires currently burning in B.C. than any 1 day during record 2017 season

WATCH: B.C. wildfire update: Fire crews arrive in British Columbia from New Zealand and Mexico.

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It was late to start, but what British Columbia’s wildfire season has lacked in length it’s more than made up for in intensity.

As of Wednesday, there were 460 wildfires burning across B.C., 25 of them large “fires of note,” according to the B.C. Wildfire Service; that’s more active fires than any single day of 2017’s record fire season.

“All the way from the U.S. border right up to almost the border of the Panhandle with Alaska, we’ve got fires of note,” said B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.

READ MORE: B.C. wildfires map 2018: Current location of wildfires around the province

There have been 1,502 fires since April 1 that have burned about 101,000 hectares of land at a cost of $131 million. About 2,700 people are engaged in firefighting efforts across B.C., including more than 100 out-of-province wildfire personnel. More are expected in the coming days, including personnel from Quebec, where the fire situation has improved.

With the fire danger rating now set to “high” or “extreme” across most of B.C., campfire bans are in place in most communities.

The fire danger rating in B.C. as of Aug. 8, 2018.

BC Wildfire Service

The two fires of greatest concern are the 12,000-hectare Snowy Creek wildfire near Keremeos and the 9,000-hectare Alkali Lake wildfire near Telegraph Creek.

That latter fire has destroyed more than two dozen structures and forced the evacuation of 250 people from their homes while putting another 2,000 local residents on evacuation alert.

Reception centres for evacuees have been opened in Dease Lake and Terrace.

WATCH: Dramatic images of Telegraph Creek wildfire


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B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the priority for those residents right now is making sure they are safe and have immediate resources available at emergency social service centres.

Farnworth said that once that’s taken care of and officials can get into the most heavily affected areas, they can begin looking at how to help in the long run.

“The key is to make sure that everybody under evacuation order is evacuated and is safe,” he said.

“Then we can look at what help is needed and what areas that assistance would come from — for example, if disaster financial assistance is required or are there other government programs that are available.”

Across the province, there are 22 evacuation alerts in effect and 17 evacuation orders. Provincial Regional Emergency Co-ordination Centres have been established in Kamloops and Terrace.

READ MORE: Nanaimo Lakes wildfire now 160 hectares: evacuation order and alert remains

For crews battling the flames, things could get worse before they get better.

Chief wildfire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said officials are on alert, with a challenging new weather pattern expected to sweep across northern B.C. on Friday.

WATCH: Wildfires continue to rage in Western B.C.

A system of lower pressure is inbound, which will bring cooler weather to the area, but it is also expected to produce strong winds and possibly storms with new lightning that could exacerbate an already dangerous situation.

“The X-factor of course, in terms of those thunderstorms, is going to be around rain,” Skrepnek said.

“Obviously we’re keeping a very, very close eye on that weather outlook for Friday. It is shifting day-by-day in terms of whether we’re expecting rain, where it’s going to fall, how long it’s going to fall, how much it’s going to fall and how long it’s going to linger for, but we are bracing for a challenging day.”

Smoke is also a major concern across the province, particularly in the southern interior, where smoke from fires in the Okanagan is mingling with wildfire smoke from south of the U.S. border.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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