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As wildfire season worsens in Cariboo, residents urged to prepare

Have an evacuation plan in place

Officials in the Cariboo are urging residents and travellers to prepare themselves and their households as the wildfire situation continues to deteriorate in the region.

“The seasonal weather forecast is not going to improve,” said Gerald Pinchbeck, public information officer for the Cariboo Regional District’s (CRD), Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and CRD communications manager, during a media update Wednesday afternoon (July 12).

“We are going to continue to see hot, dry conditions with little to no precipitation and lightning in the future.”

Several evacuation orders and alerts have been issued in the last 24 hours due to increased fire activity in the northwest region of the Cariboo.

As of 2:45 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the CRD issued its latest evacuation alert for the Rainbow Lake area. The Rainbow Lake alert impacts 52 people, 83 properties, 31 dwellings and 8,200 ha.

This area is to the south of the Teepee Lake evacuation order issued earlier in the day which impacts 27 people, and 293 properties over 71,000 ha. The Teepee Lake wildfire is located northwest of Quesnel, and north of the community of Nazko.

Right now there are 105 people on evacuation order throughout the regional district. This covers 972 properties and 66 known houses over 240,600 ha.

Excluding the latest alert, there are 130 people on alert, impacting 152 properties, 76 dwellings covering 43,492 ha.

Pinchbeck said the BC Wildfire Service is doing all they can to fight the fires, but there is something residents can do to help - be prepared and make a plan now for an evacuation.

Critical documentation should be ready to go; home insurance, medical information, identification. Pinchbeck also encourages residents to sign up for the CRD’s emergency notification system. Residents should also have a grab and go bag ready.

When asked if all residents were following evacuation orders, officials couldn’t say at this time.

“It’s a fluid situation right now. Some residents take a bit longer to organize to leave areas that quickly go from alert to order,” said Stephanie Masun, director of the CRD’s EOC and manager of emergency program services · Cariboo Regional District. “Those people may be organizing their animals. There’s a lot of agriculture producers and hobby farmers out in the areas we have activated now through orders and alerts. Those situations take a bit longer to organize.”

Masun added Emergency Support Services have been activated between Quesnel and Williams Lake to assist while RCMP and SARS have been notifying residents of the orders.

There are no known structure losses at this time due to the fires in the Cariboo region, although there have been losses of hay crops reported, confirmed Masun, calling it a significant consideration and concern for the agricultural industry.

Masun encouraged residents and visitors, particularly those in remote areas with limited communications, to “please have a plan.”

“Please understand you may have interrupted transportation routes … situations can change quickly.”

Masun advised travellers to carry extra water and supplies in case there is an unexpected road block, and leave a route plan and time if return with someone.

“It’s really, really important that people are prepared travelling as well as when they’re at work that they may not be able to get home as planned.”

A thick blanket of smoke has settled over the Cariboo Chilcotin this week as Billy Barker Days are set to kick off in Quesnel Thursday, July 13.

Organizers there have been moving forward with their plans to host the festival at this time.

As of Wednesday, there are now four wildfires of note in the region.

They are the Townsend Creek wildfire, the Teepee Lake fire, the Pelican Lake wildfire and the Gatcho Lake wildfire.

Angie Mindus

About the Author: Angie Mindus

I began my journalism career in daily and weekly newspapers in Alberta.
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