No end in sight for B.C. wildfires, one month since state of emergency declared

Wildfire conditions remained ‘static’ during the long weekend but fires still a concern through August

(BC Wildfire Service)

(BC Wildfire Service)

Tuesday marks one month since the province declared a state of emergency, as hundreds of wildfires engulf B.C.’s interior with no clear end in sight.

Historically, August is the worst month in the wildfire season, but July’s unusually high heats and stormy weather has already made 2017 the second worst fire season in B.C.’s known history.

Since April 1, crews have responded to 904 fires in the province, burning an estimated 604,000 hectares of land, according to BC Wildfire Service chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek – about the size of Prince Edward Island.

This past weekend gave fire crews a reprieve to rapid spreading wildfires, as winds slowed and people obeyed restrictions on off-roading and campfire bans.

But Skrepnek urged residents to remain vigilant and mindful of the tinder-dry conditions.

RELATED: Williams Lake man fined after allegedly celebrating returning home with fireworks

“We definitely are concerned people are going to become complacent,” he said. “It is only early August and this is typically our busiest period for fire activity.”

Wildfires by the numbers

There are 146 active wildfires burning, primarily in the Cariboo and Kamloops Fire Centres, with crews focusing on 26 larger-scale fires.

The biggest concern remains the Elephant Hill fire now burning near Clinton at an estimated 117,170 hectares in size.

More than $240 million has been spent on fighting the raging fires, as well as the efforts of thousands of firefighters – some international – digging into hot ground, building fireguards while air crews attack with water and fire retardant.

RELATED: Winds continue to control wildfires in the Cariboo

For more than 40,000 Cariboo and Interior residents, the month anniversary marks tireless and stressful weeks of living in tents, cots and couch surfing with friends and families – some still not allowed back into their communities.

And while many are back in their homes, the heavy smoke blanketing all corners of the province serves as a reminder many of the regions remain on evacuation alert – told to be prepared to leave at any given time.

Fighting fire with fire

RELATED: Clinton-area residents say controlled burn went ‘horribly wrong’

The statement issued Sunday by local ranchers said one of them remains uncertain how many of his 100 cows were killed in the blaze near Clinton, B.C., which was started by embers blown over a highway from a controlled burn.

“I’m numb, I just can’t get my head around it,” Greg Nyman said in the statement. “Most of my cows are either burnt up or going to die from their injuries.”

Nyman said he doesn’t blame crews on the front lines of the fires, but management for making the call to start the burn.

Ranchers and rural residents say they want to see an apology from government officials for the failed controlled burn and compensation for any livestock killed and rural property damaged as a result of fires.

Skrepnek has previously said wildfires of such large scale can’t be fought with just water and retardants, and planned ignitions are necessary to get rid of fuels that allow fires to spread.

On Monday, Skrepnek said the BC Wildfire Service has been in touch with the ranchers and there is a mechanism within the Wildfire Act to entitles people to compensation.

Firefighting remains the priority, but Robert Turner of Emergency Management BC said a program to rebuild damaged fences is already underway and a commercial livestock relocation program is available to those who need to temporarily move animals away from affected areas.

“There’s a lot of work been going on to support agriculture generally and ranchers particularly,” he said.

With files from Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

B.C. wildfires 2017

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ron MacDonnell leans over the railing on Beacon Wharf Tuesday afternoon. The Town of City is currently looking into the future of the aging structure. It could make way for a concrete pontoon once part of the floating bridge over Hood Canal in Washington State. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney explores public-private partnership for iconic Beacon Wharf

Wharf committee recommends town invite pontoon company to submit proposal

Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, is shown during a news conference in Ottawa in 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
Isolating provinces is a bad idea, says Canadian Chamber of Commerce

National business organization calls for cohesive approach to COVID-19 measures

Francina Mettes and Thomas Schouten with the 200-page document they submitted in December of 2018. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Dutch 94-year-old in Saanich earns permanent Canadian residency

Couple of 45 years to stay together in Cadboro Bay

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
School bus driver laments motorists who pass while red lights are flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

Victoria police are seeking home surveillance video and witnesses following a prowling incident in Esquimalt Jan. 20. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt prowler removes air conditioner, peers into person’s home

VicPD is seeking video footage, witnesses following Jan. 20 incident

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Most Read