B.C.’s wildfire officials are asking everyone to avoid non-essential travel to some regions of the province due to the heightened threat of wildfires.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Friday that there is concern some wildfires may flare up and force residents to leave their homes.
“We are acting out of an abundance of caution, but this situation could get very serious very quickly,” Farnworth said.
Officials are asking everyone to stay away from Armstrong, Spallumcheen, the Okanagan Indian Band, Enderby and parts of the North Okanagan.
Farnworth said if residents in these areas are told to leave their homes, they need to be able to do so quickly and without being caught in traffic or with tourists also trying to flee.
“We’re not asking you to leave, but be ready to go if you are under an evacuation alert,” he said to residents. “For any evacuation orders, leave immediately. Do not delay.”
Increased fire activity is expected this weekend, including significant winds that could move fires quickly because of the hot and dry conditions. Officials said the next 72 hours will be “critical”, and that the province is preparing for more evacuation orders and alerts.
There are multiple fires threatening communities in the region and it is also extremely smoky and hot, with above seasonal temperatures.
On Thursday, the entire community of Logan Lake, about 2,000 people, was ordered to leave their homes immediately due to the Tremont Creek wildfire burning just five kilometres away.
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Environment Canada said a heat wave gripping much of southern and coastal B.C. should ease by Sunday and could be replaced by showers in some areas.
However, the shift in weather could bring lightning and could ignite more fires.
The Tremont Creek wildfire is 38,000 hectares in size.
Another fire of concern continues to be the White Rock Lake fire, burning 34 kilometres northwest of Vernon. It is massive at 58,000 hectares and gusty winds are expected this weekend, which could cause it to grow and hamper the efforts of the BC Wildfire crews.
Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations for the BC Wildfire Service said if these winds arrive, “they will drive aggressive fire behaviour.”
“We’ve seen the impact winds like these have had on our fires that have been on the landscape in July and August and those impacts include significant growth, challenging our containment lines on all sides and the potential for large spotting distances where the head of our fire shoots out ember transfer from the fire and creates spot fires in front of the main body of the fire,” Chapman added.
“The potential impact of this forecasted weather is a direct threat to life and property.”
The Sparks Lake wildfire remains the biggest in the province, at 70,976 hectares, but it is not as threatening as some of the other blazes.
Crews are battling about 270 wildfires around B.C. but more help is on the way.
Quebec’s forest fire protection agency says a contingent of firefighters will arrive in Abbotsford on Sunday.
The agency says the 153-person team includes 140 firefighters and is the largest-ever deployment of Quebec’s resources outside that province.
—With files from The Canadian Press