(Public Safety Canada)

B.C. wildfire season hits 599 fires

Over $50 million has been spent on the firefighting effort

The province isn’t likely to get a reprieve from the wildfires ravaging the B.C. interior any time soon, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

Chief information officer Kevin Skrepnek said that they are expecting more hot weather, lightning and strong winds. Specialist staff from Alberta are on their way to offer expertise gleaned from last year’s Fort Mac fire.

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Skrepnek said that fighting the 599 fires across B.C. this season has cost the province $53.5 million. The province currently has 200 helicopters and 40 planes, mostly on short term contracts.

While fire activity has ramped up in the past few weeks, Skrepnek said, 2017 is not an unusual intense fire season. At this time in 2016, there had been 496 fires and 93,000 hectares burned. The 10-year average for July 11 sits at 48,000 hectares.

“Discarded cigarettes, abandoned campfires, irresponsible use of off-road vehicles” are the main causes of human-caused fires, Skrepnek said.

RELATED: RCMP send 340 officers from B.C. and Alberta to help with wildfires

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According to BC Emergency Management deputy minister Robert Turner, there are currently 14,365 evacuees across B.C. Several evacuation orders and alerts have been issued in the past few days; most notably in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake.

“That is a rough estimate,” said Turner. “Most of those who have evacuated have not registered.”

All evacuees are asked to register either online or by phone at 1-800-863-6582 with the Canadian Red Cross. Earlier technical challenges with the system have been fixed, Turner added.

“That was very much a proactive step because of some of the weather we are expecting tomorrow… we have fires now in many directions around Williams Lake,” said Skrepnek. Evacuees from Williams Lake should head towards Prince George.

There are Canadian Forces aircraft in place if any air evacuation is necessary, Turner said.

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The Prince George fire centre is dealing with its own issues – the Sutherland Road fire is at 1,800 hectares, the Grizzly Lake fire is 215 hectares and Tatelkuz Lake fire is over 1,000 hectares.

“The Coastal fire centre is not seeing the same level of activity as we are in the Cariboo fire centre,” said Skrepnek, “but we are making sure we have the equipment.”

Turner said that the province has an advanced planning unit that is looking 60 days ahead.

The Northwest fire centre has remained quiet with only eight of the over 200 fires burning across the province currently.

Major fires in B.C.:

  • Ashcroft fire – 7,300 ha
  • Princeton – 2,700 ha
  • Gustafsen fire – 5,000 ha
  • Wildwood fire – 2,500 ha
  • 100 Mile fire – 2,600 ha
  • Chilcotin fires – 10,000 ha
  • Little Fort east fires – 897 ha
  • Green Mountain fire (previously Dragon Mountain fire) – 1,500 ha
  • Precipice Creek fire – 800 ha

More to come.