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Crews continue to battle B.C.’s first major wildfire of 2020 near Squamish

Click to play video 'Fast-moving Brackendale wildfire difficult to fight' Fast-moving Brackendale wildfire difficult to fight
The latest on a fast-moving wildfire that was first spotted wednesday near Brackendale, north of Squamish. Paul Johnson reports on the evacuation, and why the fire is proving so difficult for fight.

The Magee Road wildfire, burning about 15 kilometres northwest of Brackendale near Squamish, has now been mapped at 203 hectares in size.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says the fire has been mapped by GPS, resulting in a more accurate description of its size and not a change in fire growth.

A state of local emergency also remains in place.

The wildfire prompted the tactical evacuation of the Magee Road area Wednesday evening.

The Paradise Valley/Tunnel Station and the Upper Squamish Valley communities of SLRD Electoral Area D are also under evacuation alert. Residents are being reminded the situation is dymanic and may be upgraded to an evacuation order at any time.

READ MORE: Squamish Valley wildfire leads to evacuations, local state of emergency

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Light to moderate winds are expected in the area Friday, officials say — these are favourable conditions for the 46 firefighters on scene. But a weak cold front expected later Friday may increase fire behaviour.

Fire Information Officer, Marg Drysdale says because there is less wind Friday, crews are working on containment.

“[It’s a] direct attack, so hard, dirty work especially on the hillside,” she told CKNW. “Where they can they’re going to be delivering water, in some cases because of the very steep slope they are going to have to wait until the fire comes to them.”

The flames are burning close to homes and infrastructure, and a resident told The Canadian Press that homes have been lost.

Toni Kerekes runs a riding school in the area and said she saw one home burning and what remains of at least two others as she left the area late Wednesday.

The fire remains zero-per-cent contained.

Residents who have left their homes but have not checked into designated hotels are asked to call 604-815-4931 to register for non-accommodation services.

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The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District says plans are also being put in place to support the evacuation of livestock. Residents of the Squamish and Paradise Valleys who may need to evacuate livestock can contact 604-815-4995 for information.

The SLRD says commercial livestock producers may be eligible for financial reimbursement for the moving, storing and returning of their livestock and should contact them at 604-356-3082 to discuss the process and eligibility.

READ MORE: Fire season just two weeks old in B.C., but 18 active fires so far

As of Thursday afternoon, the fire danger rating for B.C.’s most populated regions were rated as moderate, though a large swath of the province was rated as low.

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Though nowhere near high or extreme, the BC Wildfire Service says there have been 46 fires since April 1, including 28 in the last seven days.

Further, there are 18 active fires, with 39 per cent attributed as being human-caused.

The Coastal region has the largest number of active fires to date at nine, followed by five in the Kamloops region and two apiece in the Southeast and Cariboo fire centres.

There are no active fires in the Prince George and Northwest fire centres.

Asked about COVID-19 and how it’s affecting those battling wildfires, BC Wildfire says it has adopted a number of measures and guidelines, including physical-distancing.One example, fire information officer Jody Lucius told Global News on Thursday, has been the cancellation of week-long boot-camp sessions in Merritt for new recruits, and how they’ll be now trained in their respective jurisdictions.

READ MORE: B.C. ban on open-burning now in effect

B.C. has banned most open-burning activities including Category 2 fires (backyard and industrial burning) and Category 3 fires (industrial and resource management burning).Fireworks, sky lanterns and burn barrels are also banned. Campfires, defined as recreational fires that are no larger than 50 cm wide by 50 cm high, are still allowed.

-With files from The Canadian Press, Doyle Potenteau, Robyn Crawford and Simon Little