Wildfire threat forces evacuation affecting about 1,100 people east of Kelowna, B.C.
KAMLOOPS, B.C.—An evacuation order affecting about 1,100 people living east of Kelowna, B.C., was issued Thursday because of the threat of a wildfire.
Fire crews from the Joe Rich, Kelowna, Ellison and Lake Country departments along with the BC Wildfire Service were fighting the blaze that was reported shortly after 1:30 p.m.
The wildfire service says the blaze located roughly 25 kilometres from Okanagan Lake has grown to about 380 hectares in size. It’s suspected to be human-caused.
A reception centre for evacuees was being set up at a church in Kelowna.
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Elsewhere, calmer weather and continuing progress battling some of the other wildfires in the province means more people can return home while campers and hikers will be able to access more of the backcountry in the Interior.
The Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operation Centre said evacuation orders in the Maeford Lake, Tatla Lake and Kleena Kleene areas were downgraded to alerts late Thursday.
The B.C. government said select campsites and trails in the Cariboo fire centre were scheduled to reopen at noon on Friday.
It follows a decision on Wednesday to rescind a sweeping ban on access to Crown land in the region.
“We wanted to get a return to normalcy as soon as it was safe, as soon as it was practical,” said Kevin Skrepnek with the wildfire service.
The sites were closed July 13, one week after a lightning storm tore across the central Interior, sparking dozens of separate wildfires that forced 45,000 people from their homes.
The number of evacuation orders has declined over the last two weeks and Emergency Management BC said earlier Thursday about 2,500 people remained out of their homes as 154 fires continued to burn.
Although some backcountry areas will reopen Friday, the ministry said other trails and recreation sites remain closed.
People are encouraged to check the websites of the wildfire service, sites and trails, and BC Parks for the latest information on closures.
The extent of the damage caused by a record-breaking year of fires that have scorched more than 10,000 square kilometres of land is still being tallied.
But Chief Richard William of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation said at least 10 wild horses were killed by a massive blaze in the Cariboo region that has consumed an area more than 2,300 square kilometres in size.
A photo circulating on social media, taken by rangers in the area, shows the carcasses of several horses surrounded by blackened trees in the Chilcotin southwest of Williams Lake.
William said the total number of wild horses lost is unknown, but the discovered carcasses have his community worried about loss of other wildlife, particularly moose that they rely on for hunting.
As situation continues to be volatile, a campfire ban remains in effect throughout the Cariboo fire centre, which covers most of central B.C. including Williams Lake and Quesnel, the closest commutes to a 4,600 square kilometre wildfire that is the biggest ever recorded in the province.
The campfire ban is also in effect for most of the southern half of the province.
Skrepnek said although weather conditions have improved, dry conditions across the province are unprecedented, leaving it unclear when the campfire ban can be lifted.
There are scattered showers in the forecast for some fire-affected areas, but Skrepnek said there is still no sign of significant rainfall coming.
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