A wildfire burning near Telegraph Creek in B.C.’s northwest has merged together with three smaller fires to form a single, massive 118,000-hectare blaze.
The Alkali Lake wildfire is now B.C.’s largest, followed by the Shovel Lake wildfire which was 87,000 hectares in size on Thursday.
While the fire has grown significantly, fire information officer Heather Rice said it still doesn’t hold a candle to some of last year’s behemoth wildfires.
“We had fires in the Cariboo that were almost four times larger than that, sadly,” she said.
Crews were working on Thursday to try and slow the fire’s creeping southerly progress towards the community of Glenora, with support from helicopters.
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Residents have been under an evacuation order since August 7, and officials say more than two dozen properties in the Telegraph Creek-area have been destroyed by the fire.
But Rice said, for the most part, the fire is growing to the north, away from communities including Telegraph Creek.
Further to the south, a group of residents continue to defy an evacuation order for several huge fires burning near Burns Lake.
Around 100 people south of Burns Lake have earned an uncharacteristically stern rebuke from the BC Wildfire Service for refusing to leave their homes.
The wildfire service has warned that staying inside the fire zone puts firefighters at risk, and can hamper firefighting efforts.
Many live in an area south of Francois Lake known as the “Southside,” which is accessible only by ferry.
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Grassy Plains resident Annie Obarianyk, who fled to Burns Lake with her children, said her husband has stayed at their home running hoses and pumps non-stop for nine days.
Their property is threatened by both the Nadina and Verdun wildfires, but Obarianyk says he won’t leave because he wouldn’t be allowed back into the area.
“I’ve told him, ‘Get ready to run,’ but he would never cross the ferry because when he runs, he has to be able to come back and assess the damage and get rid of hot spots,” she said.
Obarianyk said she’s been sending supplies to her exhausted husband.
“So what people are doing, and I’m not mentioning names, they’re crossing Francois Lake in taiga boats because they can’t use the ferry,” she said.
Nearby, the Shovel Lake wildfire continues to grow, after heavy wind prompted unexpectedly aggressive fire behaviour on Wednesday night.
Aircraft in the area have been grounded for several days due to thick smoke, and the BC Wildfire Service has stationed helicopters on standby in Fort St. James and Burns Lake to try and take advantage of any clear breaks.
A finger of fire also moved eight kilometres through a slash on the fire’s northeast corner. However, fortunately, the fire has shown no sign of growing towards Fort St. James or Highway 16 over the last week.
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Closer to the coast, a number of residents of the D’Arcy area have been forced to leave their properties after an evacuation order was issued for the Grouse Creek wildfire on Wednesday.
The fire is burning just 4.5 kilometres from the community, and people living and camping the McGillivray and Ponderosa recreational areas have been told to leave immediately.
In the Lower Mainland, the fire of greatest concern remains the Mount Hicks wildfire, just north of Agassiz, which continues to expand.
The fire has grown to more than 250-hectares in size, and firefighters from Port Moody arrived on Wednesday to help crews on the ground.
“It’s a really nasty fire for a lot of different reasons. The slopes are extremely steep, the trees are very big and poorly rooted. There’s a power line on both sides of the fire,” said BC Wildfire Service incident commander Orin Caddy.
The fire is threatening power lines, and at least two properties including Peter Gouwenberg’s farm.
Gouwenberg said flames crept within metres of the property line on Wednesday.
“It looked like lava was coming down the mountain,” he said.
“The whole thing was engulfed.”
The fire, which has forced the closure of Sasquatch Provincial Park, is believed to have been caused by sparks from a flat tire.
Travel on Highway 7 remains restricted, with reductions to single-lane alternating traffic from 6:30 a.m.