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State of emergency set to expire as wildfires continue to burn

Last Updated Aug 17, 2017 at 3:23 pm PST

File Photo. (Source: BC Wildfire Service via Twitter)
Summary

There are close to 140 fires currently burning

More than 900,000 hectares have been scorched this year, since April 1st

The current provincial state of emergency is set to expire tomorrow, August 18th

KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) – 900,000 hectares has been scorched in BC so far this year, shattering a record set in 1958 when more than 8,500 square kilometres were lost.

“That number does make this the record highest fire season in terms of hectares burned, and that’s based on accurate statistics back towards 1950,” explains Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek with the BC Wildfire Service.

Crews are currently dealing with 138 fires burning province-wide.

“Our cost to date specifically for the BC Wildfire Service currently estimated at $321.6 million,” he says.

Four new fires were reported yesterday, but Skrepnek says crews acted quickly and prevented them from spreading, unlike major wildfires sparked in early July that continue to expand.

“I think it’s important to note we are still seeing new initial attack fires every day and we’re having a huge degree of success on them,” he adds.

Meanwhile, the current state of emergency issued for the province is set to expire tomorrow. As we quickly approach the deadline, Robert Turner with Emergency Management BC says a decision has yet to be made whether or not to extend it.

“That issue will be discussed today with senior government officials and ministers, and a decision will be made as to whether or not to extend the provincial declaration.”

The provincial state of emergency was extended earlier this month, and was first issued in early July.

Thousands remain out of their homes.

Wildfire crews pleading for people to obey bans

With little help from the weather, crews battling wildfires across the province are asking you to be cautious when heading outdoors.

“Again we remind everyone to remain vigilant,” says Skrepnek, adding the service wants to make sure people are aware of the restrictions that are in place. “Respect the open and burning prohibitions we have in place. Campfires are banned across almost the entire province.”

While campfires are still banned across most of BC, offroading is also off-limits in the South East, Kamloops and Cariboo Fire Centres. There’s also a total backcountry closure in the Cariboo.

“With lightning again being a possibility going into that forecast for the weekend, of course it makes it even more critical that we’re doing everything we can to prevent any human-caused fires,” he explains.

Of course, people are also being reminded to report any new fires, as well as anyone who may be seen breaking open burning prohibitions.

Weather forecast raising concerns

Crews fear a cold front with gusty winds forecast for parts of BC could inflame wildfires that had been stabilized this week.en stabilized this week.

Skrepnek says two of the largest fires in the Thompson Nicola and Cariboo regions have seen little growth since Wednesday, but explains a change in the weather will likely make flames more aggressive.

A risk of thunderstorms into the weekend will also bring lightning, which could set off more fires particularly in the southern and central parts of the province that remain extremely dry.