SICAMOUS (NEWS 1130) — With strong winds in the forecast, B.C.’s wildfire fight is expected to get worse on Wednesday.
More than 3,000 firefighters are working to suppress the flames threatening dozens of communities, but those firefighting efforts and control lines will be challenged, according to the BC Wildfire Service Director of Provincial Operations Cliff Chapman.
The winds are coming up from the U.S. and are predicted to fan the flames in the interior for the next 48 hours.
NEWS 1130 Meteorologist Michael Kuss says the winds will shift later in the day in the Okanagan and the southern Interior, which could further challenge conditions.
“Winds will be increasing today mainly from the northwest at 20-30 km/h with local stronger gusts possible,” he said, adding that around the fire zones the winds could be even stronger.
Significant wind activity is forecast today throughout the Interior, southern Interior and southeast regions of the province. This weather system is expected to last until July 22nd and impact direction & spread of current #BCwildfires, potentially resulting in rapid fire growth. pic.twitter.com/OB8Kqp0SqQ
— BC Wildfire Service (@BCGovFireInfo) July 20, 2021
Hundreds of people have been told to be ready to leave if the weather plays out as predicted, as a shift in the wind could move dangerous and destructive wildfires toward properties and people.
That includes people living near a new fire burning in the Shuswap region just two kilometres south of Sicamous.
More than 1,000 people were forced to leave the popular resort town Tuesday night due to the flames.
— Ria Renouf (@riarenouf) July 20, 2021
As a precaution, the Eagle Valley Manor assisted living facility and the Sicamous Health Centre was also evacuated with patients being moved to neighbouring communities.
Interior Health says the immunization clinic in Sicamous has been cancelled as a result of the Wise Man Creek fire.
A wildfire near Oliver and Osoyoos in the south Okanagan could also grow due to the wind.
On Tuesday, the Nk’Mip Creek Wildfire spread eastward, forcing an additional 122 properties to evacuate within the Regional District of the Kootenay Boundary.
An additional 300 properties were put on alert in advance of the increased winds.
“We have issued these orders and alerts because BC Wildfire has informed us of the potential for a change in the prevailing winds that could push the wildfire to burn more in a southeasterly direction into dry fuels,” said Mark Stephens, EOC Director.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary has declared a state of local emergency in Electoral Area E/West Boundary as a result.
State of Local Emergency in #RDKB Area E/West Boundary with 122 properties ordered to evacuate, 304 on alert due to Nk’Mip Creek Wildfire & anticipated increase in winds. Grand Forks Search & Rescue delivering orders now: https://t.co/WTddIRYnXo @EmergMgtRDOS pic.twitter.com/Pnh47jRyIB
— RDKB Emergency Info (@RDKB_Emergency) July 21, 2021
Environment Canada has also issued an extreme thunderstorm watch for several parts of the province, including the Cariboo region, where strong wind gusts and lightning could also impact the firefighting efforts.
Air quality remains a huge concern in the province. As of Wednesday morning, B.C.’s South Coast remains without an air quality advisory. It is one of the few regions in western Canada without the smoky conditions.
“Winds out of the South Coast are mainly going to be mainly out of the west for the next seven to 10 days. Aside from a few brief periods of easterly winds, it looks like we are going to stay out of that smoke either moving in from the southern Interior or up from Oregon,” Kuss said.