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Official says huge wildfires in BC could smoulder until next spring

Last Updated Sep 1, 2017 at 2:38 pm PDT

The Philpot Road wildfire is seen along a hillside just outside of Kelowna, B.C., on August 28, 2017. A municipal leader in British Columbia's central Interior says he wouldn't be surprised if wildfires that have chewed through more than 10,600 square kilometres of woodland won't be fully out until 2018. Chairman Al Richmond of the Cariboo Regional District said hot spots from many of the largest fires likely won't be doused until the spring, mirroring the Fort McMurray wildfire that Alberta officials said was finally declared extinguished on Aug. 2. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

WILLIAMS LAKE (NEWS 1130) – A municipal leader in British Columbia’s central Interior says he wouldn’t be surprised if wildfires that have chewed through more than 10,600 square kilometres of woodland won’t be fully out until 2018.

Chairman Al Richmond of the Cariboo Regional District said hot spots from many of the largest fires likely won’t be doused until the spring, mirroring a Fort McMurray wildfire that Alberta officials said was finally declared extinguished on August 2.

“It goes down deep into the roots sometimes and then pops up again in the summer,” he said. “That’s not unusual, so I think the forest service felt we will be out dealing with these fires until well into October. And we will probably be back with many hot spots again come spring.”

A small wildfire that flared up near Canim Lake, east of 100 Mile House, prompted a tactical evacuation of about 88 properties. There was no formal evacuation order but an alert was in place.

Huge swaths of land that are now just barren stretches of ash-covered ground and charred timber also worry the regional district as it prepares for rain in the fall.

“If we have some rains here, which we will be thankful to have to douse the fires, they could bring a mixed blessing and cause some land slippage too, so it’s not a pretty picture,” Richmond said.

This has been a record-breaking wildfire season for BC, and Finance Minister Carole James said earlier this month the cost of the fires was tracking $389 million over the budget estimate in February. Updated firefighting costs will be included in September’s financial update.

Cabinet ministers from the federal and British Columbia governments have scheduled a meeting for Tuesday in Vancouver to discuss the response and efforts to rebuild areas damaged by the wildfires.

From the federal side, the meeting will include Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, while BC’s representatives will be Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, Forests Minister Doug Donaldson and Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. First Nations leaders and representatives from the Red Cross are also scheduled to attend the meeting.