Calmer weather helping B.C. firefighters, but winds expected to return
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The B.C. Wildfire Service says a break in the weather has allowed firefighters to reduce the number of wildfires in the province to 183, but gusty wind in the forecast for Saturday is becoming a concern.
Kevin Skrepnek, the chief fire information officer, says the overall pattern is for continuing hot, dry conditions but for now the situation has calmed down from the weekend, when more than 100 fires a day were breaking out.
“It is looking like the wind is going to be a little less than forecast. Any lightning should come with a little bit of rain,” said Skrepnek on Wednesday morning.
Skrepnek says just 12 new fires were reported yesterday, and the number of fires burning province-wide has dropped to 183 from more than 200 on Monday.
But there is still the potential for gusty winds and lightning later today, particularly in the Cariboo and southern Interior regions of the province.
CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe says a low pressure system west of Haida Gwaii will send a couple of weak frontal systems across central and northern B.C. today and Thursday.
“Showers and scattered thunderstorms will accompany each of these troughs but mainly north of Prince George,” she says. “There is only about a 30 per cent chance of storms south of Prince George.”
And the long-term forecast is for the hot dry weather to continue later this week with the potential for strong wind on Saturday.
Williams Lake remains on alert
Meanwhile, crews have taken advantage of calmer conditions to make progress on fire guards near Williams Lake.
That’s welcome news for tens of thousands of people living around the central Interior city, who have been told they must be ready to leave at a moment’s notice if a nearby wildfire moves closer to the city.
“We are ready to go. It may not be necessary. Let’s hope it’s that way,” said Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb on Wednesday morning.
For now, things are calm in his community, he said.
“The leaves aren’t even moving this morning. I’m a little more optimistic this morning.”
Nevertheless, officials are keeping a close eye on the wildfire burning just a few kilometres from town on the west side of the Fraser River.
“The last I heard, it was still about 10 kilometres away and still on the other side of the river. The concern is if it crosses the river,” Cobb said.
People who want to leave can head north to Prince George at any time where evacuation centres have been set up.
If an evacuation order comes down, he hopes everyone will voluntarily leave town.
“If it is mandatory to leave, we would hope that everyone would leave. We have police here and military here.”
Evacuation order extended
Over 14,000 people have already been forced out of their homes by evacuation orders.
On Wednesday two existing evacuation orders were updated by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, affecting properties near Hallamore Lake, Electoral Area “A” and Clearwater and properties north of Dunn Lake.
No new evacuation orders were issued last night — marking the first quiet night since the blazes were sparked last week, but two new evacuation alerts were issued yesterday for the Tatelkuz Lake area and the 100 Mile Fringe Southwest Davis Road Area.
Nearly 2,000 people from the 100 Mile House area in the Cariboo were told yesterday they’ll be out of their homes for at least another week. An evacuation order affecting that region was extended yesterday as the 50-square kilometre Gustafsen wildfire burns west of town.
There was some good news for the roughly 400 residents affected by an evacuation order in Little Fort, north of Kamloops. The order was downgraded to an evacuation alert yesterday, although two wildfires are still burning east and west of the community — so officials have warned returning residents to be ready to leave again on short notice.
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