British Columbia’s wildfire situation is “trending in the right direction,” with the possibility that a significant number of evacuees could soon return home, emergency officials said Thursday.
A significant number of evacuation orders and alerts have been lifted over the last week, and “all signals are pointing to that continuing,” Emergency Management BC executive director of regional operations Pader Brach said Thursday.
On Thursday, two particularly challenging fires — the 900-square-kilometre Sparks Lake fire north of Kamloops Lake and the 635-square-kilometre Tremont Creek fire — were reclassified as “being held.”
That designation means crews don’t believe they’ll grow any larger given current conditions.
BC Wildfire Service fire operations manager Todd Nessman described the past week as “relatively quiet,” noting there had just been 11 new fires in the past two days, all of them relatively small.
He said some ridges of high pressure are expected in the coming days, but there are no extreme weather patterns, like those seen earlier in the summer, in the forecast.
Pockets of elevated risk remained in the Okanagan and South Okanagan, he said, and some key fires — chiefly the White Rock Lake blaze — remained a concern, adding officials didn’t want to send anyone home before it was safe.
Strong winds prevented crews from performing a large-scale planned ignition on that fire on Wednesday, and crews were still looking for the right opportunity to conduct the burn, he said.
A crew member was also hurt battling the White Rock Lake fire Thursday, though Nessman said it appeared his injuries were not as severe as initially feared.
“He fell down a slope upwards of 100 feet, was the report that was given to me,” he said. “They were quite concerned initially with his injuries.”
The worker was transported to hospital by ground ambulance and was receiving treatment.
“The hazards are out there. We’ve been very fortunate. We have had close calls but we haven’t had any of those, what I would categorize as significant life altering injuries with our staff.”
As of Thursday there were about 240 active wildfires in B.C., with 22 considered “fires of note,” meaning they are either highly visible or pose a potential threat to public safety.
Emergency Management BC said more than 3,400 firefighters from B.C. and more than 400 from out-of-province were helping fight the fires.
The province had about 45 evacuation orders and 90 evacuation alerts in place, which means people should be ready to leave at short notice.