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B.C.’s 2021 wildfires have now burned more than half a million hectares

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Wildfire dangers are causing immense stress for residents of British Columbia's interior, as the flames continue to threaten homes and uproot lives. Lauren Pullen reports on one woman's dangerous close call with the fires near her home – Jul 31, 2021

British Columbia appears on track for another potentially record-setting wildfire season.

As of Aug. 1, the 1,275 fires recorded in the 2021 season had scorched more a total of 501,676 hectares (5,016 square kilometres) of land.

Read more: B.C. Wildfire update Saturday: More evacuations amid new heat wave

That’s in comparison to just 12,536 burned in 2020, and the whopping 1,354,384 burned in 2018 — B.C.’s worst fire season on record.

But in that 2018 season, B.C. did not reach the half-million hectare burned marker until Aug. 16-17.

During 2017, the previous record season, B.C. hit the milestone on Aug. 3-4.

The 2021 season has also already eclipsed the 10-year average for hectares burned of just under 349,000 hectares.

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On Sunday, crews were battling 241 active fires across the province, several of which were showing intense fire activity, the BC Wildfire Service said.

The Garrison Lake wildfire, burning 33 kilometres southwest of Princeton and at the edge of E.C. Manning Park was one of those fires challenging crews.

The BC Wildfire Service said it had shown “significant growth” in the last 24 hours, and was last mapped at 8,175 hectares in size.

Read more: Video posted by B.C. fire department shows how quickly a cigarette can start a wildfire

On Saturday night, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen issued an evacuation order for 156 properties in the Eastgate area of Electoral Area H due to the fire.

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An additional evacuation alert was issued Sunday afternoon.

The wildfire service said it had deployed aircraft and structural protection crews to the fire, but heavy smoke was creating visibility issues.

High winds have also whipped the fire up, it said.

The communities of Queest Village and Pete Martin Bay on Shushwap Lake were also ordered to evacuate on Saturday, due to growth of the Crazy Creek Gorge FSR fire.

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That fire is burning 29 kilometres north of Sicamous, and was last estimated at 1,700 hectares in size, but fire officials say heavy smoke have prevented them from accurately mapping it.

Structural protection teams were on site, and forestry crews were looking at the fire’s north side for ways to contain it. Thick smoke was also interfering with aircraft on this fire.

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The Okanagan Indian Band also issued an evacuation order for properties at the south end of its reserve on Sunday due to the White Rock Lake fire.

As of Sunday, 61 evacuation orders remained active across the province, affecting more than 3,100 properties. Residents of another 18,835 properties had been warned to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

There were 3,230 firefighters and personnel battling the fires, including 301 people from out of province.

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