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BC wildfire situation to get worse before it gets better, as Elephant Hill 'monster' fire grows

Last Updated Aug 5, 2017 at 4:13 pm PDT

The road block heading to Clinton, about 11 kilometres north of Cache Creek. (Marcella Bernardo, NEWS 1130, Photo)

There were 125 wildfires burning across BC on Saturday, 16 of which started on Friday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – British Columbia’s wildfire situation is expected to get worse before it gets better.

There are currently 125 fires burning across the province, including a “monster fire” at Elephant Hill. Sixteen of the fires burning now started on Friday, bringing the total number since April 1st to 884.

The cost of the BC Wildfire Service response so far is almost $220 million, and that will rise, with Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek saying August is typically the province’s busiest month for wildfires.

“This situation, in all likelihood, is going to be getting worse before it gets better, and that’s despite the extraordinary amount of hard work that’s going on right now.”

He says the highest priority fire is the Elephant Hill fire, near Ashcroft, which is about 110,000 hectares in size.

“This fire has been an absolute monster, by any way of looking at it,” says Skrepnek.

“We are throwing everything we have at it but unfortunately the weather, as it has been for the past month, is simply not in our favour right now.

“The terrain is definitely part of the issue, there are areas of this fire that are very hard to access. The biggest challenge.. has been the weather. Particularly with this fire, the wind. This fire is right at the mouth of the Thompson River Canyon, so it’s almost a nature-made wind tunnel.”

Risk of thunderstorms and lightning

Skrepnek says hot and dry conditions are expected to continue this weekend, and while thunderstorms are expected, they’ll bring little if any rain.

“We are preparing for a challenging few days ahead of us with more of the same in terms of the weather and that potential for lightning activity across the southern part of the province.”

Skrepnek says on the positive side, winds are expected to be light this weekend.

More people needing medical attention

BC’s wildfires are causing smoke and haze to linger across much of the province.

Deputy provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry says she doesn’t have exact figures but there has been a spike in the number people needing medical attention for fire-related issues.

“In some of the areas where the air quality and the heat have both been bad, we’ve seen increases of twice an many visits as we would normally expect,” she says.

Thousands still out of their homes 

There are still 30 evacuation orders and 43 evacuation alerts in place across BC. That means more than 6,700 people have been forced from their homes, and more than 25,000 are on alert. Most of these are in the Cariboo Regional District, Thompson-Nicola Regional District and Regional Disctrict of Bulkley-Nechako.

A province-wide state of emergency has been extended until August 18th because of the ongoing wildfires.

Access has been restricted to some areas of Crown land southwest of Vanderhoof because of wildfires around Big Bend Creek, Tatelkuz Lake, Lucas Lake and Chedakuz Creek. The Order of Restricted Access means no one is allowed to remain in or enter the restricted area, unless they are authorized to enter the area to travel to and from work or is a local resident who is travelling to and from his or her residence.

The area restriction has been put in place to protect the safety of the public and firefighting personnel as they continue fire suppression.