B.C.’s premier said he will not discourage recreational travel to the B.C. Interior, despite the region’s deteriorating wildfire situation.
Speaking at a news conference about B.C.’s wildfire season on Thursday, John Horgan was asked if British Columbians should be advised to avoid travel, given the escalating danger.
“We are still encouraging people to get out as the temperatures cool and hopefully we will see more precipitation,” Horgan responded.
“There are challenges into the Interior down through Kelowna, so if you are travelling to the Okanagan, we want you to be absolutely focused on not being the person responsible for the starting of a wildfire.”
B.C. allowed intraprovincial travel to resume on June 15 as part of stage two of B.C.’s reopening plan.
Recreational travel had been banned due to the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with police stopping motorists at checkpoints along major B.C. highways and issuing fines to those who didn’t obey the provincial health order.
As of July 1, B.C. is opening up the province to interprovincial travel as well, welcoming tourists from across the country, a part of Step 3.
“What we have asked people to do as part of Step 3 is to check local communities before you travel, and that remains in place,” Horgan said.
“I think that we can continue to travel, but we need to do what Dr. Henry has advised us to do. Check before you go, make sure that you are well prepared when you get there, and be mindful of your circumstances,” Horgan added.
“The circumstances right now are an extreme high fire warning in various parts of the interior. I think people need to be aware of that.”
According to the BC Wildfire Service, 116 new fires have sprung to life this week alone, including 63 fires in the past 48 hours, most of which are burning in the B.C. Interior.
There are now eight wildfires of note burning around B.C., with many starting due to the tinder-dry conditions and lack of recent precipitation. A wildfire of note means it is especially visible or poses a threat to public safety.
On Wednesday night, nearly the entire Village of Lytton was razed by a fast-moving and catastrophic wildfire.
B.C. officials say most homes, businesses and infrastructure in the town were destroyed, and several people remain unaccounted for.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) has issued hundreds of evacuation notices connected to other fires burning near Lytton and Sparks Lake.
Meanwhile, the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) has ordered residents living around Deka Lake to evacuate immediately.
There are no evacuation alerts or orders currently impacting homes in the Okanagan Valley.