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B.C. wildfire fight challenged by water shortages, dry conditions

Last Updated Jul 23, 2021 at 6:30 pm PDT

Summary

Winds have fanned flames in many parts of B.C.'s southern Interior

Drought, water shortages challenging wildfire fighting efforts in B.C. amid dry conditions

More evacuation orders issued for B.C. communities

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C.’s wildfire situation continues to challenge crews on the frontlines, with wind only one of the concerns right now.

Conditions have been extremely dry, with little-to-no rain in recent weeks, and temperatures remain high in many areas.

BC Wildfire Service Executive Director Ian Meier says things are extreme in the southern half of the province, with “no relief in sight.” Drought conditions and water shortages are adding even more pressure to wildfire fighting efforts, as crews try to keep flames away from homes and communities.

Related video: Nearly 300 active wildfires in B.C. right now

As of Thursday night, there were 272 wildfires burning in B.C. Since April 1, more than 360,000 hectares have been burned, according to the province.

The Kamloops Fire Centre is seeing the highest number of active fires, at 98. The Southeast Fire Centre follows with 64, while the Cariboo Fire Centre is reporting 45 active fires.

Flames have forced a number of evacuations across B.C.’s southern Interior. The latest orders are affecting the Spences Bridge area, where people in 169 properties have been cleared out.

With thousands of properties under evacuation orders across the province, Kamloops is experiencing a shortage of commercial accommodations.

“If your primary residence has been evacuated, we recommend that you arrange to stay with friends or family,” the order for Blue Sky Country in Spences Bridge reads.

Smokey conditions

Winds have been fanning flames in some regions, but so far, those gusts have not pushed any of the smoke to the coast.

NEWS 1130 Meteorologist Michael Kuss says we likley won’t see the haze settle over Metro Vancouver just yet.

“The westerly winds continue to dominate along the coast, and that keeps us away from the wildfire smoke around the Lower Mainland,” he said. “Into Sunday we may see a southerly, southeasterly wind develop. That could draw in some haze, some smoke from the Oregon wildfires — at least briefly.”

He says the wildfire smoke is expected to be further driven into the Kootenays and Elk Valley Friday and Saturday.

“[The smoke] continues to drift off into the east, and not really a factor along the coast,” he said.

Expanding emergency alert use

As hundreds more residents have been forced from their homes because of wildfires, the province’s emergency co-ordination agency says it’s working to expand use of the country’s public alert system for large-scale and potentially fatal disasters.

The Alert Ready system allows government officials to issue public safety alerts through major television and radio broadcasters, as well as compatible wireless devices.

Pader Brach, executive director with Emergency Management BC, says expanding the system is a priority, although he could not say if it would be in place during this wildfire season.

Brach says it would complement existing systems for issuing evacuation orders, alerts, and other emergency information, not replace them.

As of Thursday, about 4,300 properties were under evacuation orders due to wildfires scorching B.C.’s south.