More evacuations in B.C. Interior as crews battle 175 wildfires around the province

Click to play video: 'Canim Lake evacuation alert' Canim Lake evacuation alert
Some of the places currently under evacuation orders or alerts in our province would normally be filling up with vacationers trying to enjoy B.C.'s Step 3 restart plan but as Paul Johnson reports, they are instead getting a front row seat to the firefight – Jul 3, 2021

Crews with the BC Wildfire Service remained busy Saturday, tackling at least 175 fires across the province.

More than two thirds of those fires were caused by lightning, and 77 of them were sparked in the past 48 hours.

Read more: B.C. wildfire map 2021: Location and size of the fires burning around the province

The Sparks Lake fire, north of Kamloops Lake, saw aggressive growth overnight and was estimated on Saturday at 31,000 hectares in size.

About 100 people were placed on evacuation order in the Skeetchestn First Nation. They have been directed to seek shelter in Kamloops or Kelowna.

Tom Mills’ home was destroyed by the fire, one at least two structures known to have been lost in the blaze.

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“It’s amazing to see this,” he told CFJC on Friday after regaining access to the property, where he found nothing remaining but the home’s chimney.

“All the times we’ve watched on TV and seen other people going through this, you think ‘Man what a mess they’ve got.’ Now we’ve got it, now we know this is a horrible mess.”

Click to play video: 'Forensics teams arrive outside Lytton, B.C., after devastating wildfire' Forensics teams arrive outside Lytton, B.C., after devastating wildfire
Forensics teams arrive outside Lytton, B.C., after devastating wildfire – Jul 3, 2021

Meanwhile, the out-of-control 450-hectare Durand Lake wildfire, about 28 kilometres southwest of Kamloops, prompted the Thompson Nicola Regional District to issue a pair of evacuation orders for 166 properties in the Copper Desert Country area of Electoral Area J.

Residents of that area have been directed to emergency support service reception centres in Merritt and Chilliwack.

Read more: Forensic team arrives in Lytton, B.C.; investigation into deadly wildfire gears up

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Crews were also busy on Saturday with two fires of concern near 100 Mile House.

The wildfire burning southwest of Deka Lake grew from 70 to 200 hectares. Hundreds of residents in the area have already been forced from their homes due to the fire.

A second nearby fire, burning at the southern end of Canim Lake, prompted a new evacuation alert for residents in that area.

Click to play video: 'Ottawa to collaborate on B.C. wildfire crisis response' Ottawa to collaborate on B.C. wildfire crisis response
Ottawa to collaborate on B.C. wildfire crisis response – Jul 2, 2021

Roger Hollander, chief of 100 Mile House Fire Rescue, said his team was partnering with about 100 firefighters from municipal departments around the province to support the BC Wildfire Service as it tackles multiple fires in the region.

“The fires are not close enough at this point that we have an alert by any means in the district of 100 Mile House, but our Emergency Operations Centre is, of course, open,” he told Global News on Saturday.

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Read more: How to prepare for a wildfire evacuation and what to do if one happens

Evacuees from the Deka Lake area were being redirected to Williams Lake, he said, as 100 Mile House’s resources were now fully occupied.

There were, however, also positive developments Saturday. All evacuation orders and alerts for the Merry Creek fire outside Castlegar were lifted.

An evacuation order related to the McKay Creek fire, north of Lillooet, for residents of the West Pavilion and Pavilion Lake area, was also downgraded to an evacuation alert.

Click to play video: 'What’s next for Lytton residents?' What’s next for Lytton residents?
What’s next for Lytton residents? – Jul 3, 2021

Federal ministers have pledged to support B.C.’s fire fighting efforts, with Public Safety Minister Bill Blair saying the government has been preparing for the wildfire season for the past few weeks.

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Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations for the BC Wildfire Service, says the recent wave of extreme heat has created conditions for a “significant spread” of wildfires, with the potential for 1,000 square kilometres to burn by the end of the weekend.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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