High winds and high temperatures over the weekend of Aug. 14 escalated many of the province’s wildfires, pushing them towards several communities and prompting multiple evacuation alerts and orders, highway closures, and a warning from the province’s public safety minister that travellers should stay out of fire-affected areas for non-essential reasons.
“If you are planning to travel through these fire-affected areas, it’s time to change your plans,” Mike Farnworth said in a news conference on Aug. 16. He added “We are in for a challenging fight in the coming days.”
The Tremont Creek wildfire moved within two kilometres of Logan Lake, prompting an evacuation order for the 2,000 residents of that community on Aug. 12. On Aug. 15, orders were put in place for several areas to the east of Logan Lake, including Paska, Duffy, and Dominic Lakes. As of the time of writing (Aug. 17), there had been no reports of structure loss in Logan Lake, and the threat to the community had diminished as the fire moved to the northeast.
Also on Aug. 15, evacuation orders were issued for Cherry Creek and surrounding farms and ranches, with Savona and Tobiano remaining on evacuation alert. Alerts were put in place for areas to the east of Cherry Creek near the junction of Highways 1 and 5, and western areas of the City of Kamloops. On Aug. 17 the evacuation order for Cherry Creek was partially rescinded to evacuation alert.
The Lytton Creek fire necessitated evacuation orders on Aug. 15 for more than 2,500 residents of Lower Nicola and the Nicola Indian band. The whole of the City of Merritt also went on evacuation alert, and evacuees from other areas were warned not to come to Merritt for Emergency Support Services, as the ESS centre there had no capacity.
Residents leaving the region because of the evacuation orders were forced to take Highway 5A through Aspen Grove to Princeton and then Highway 3 to Hope to reach the ESS centre in Chilliwack, as Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon was closed due to a rock slide and Highway 5 (Coquihalla) was closed due to the July Mountain and Brook Creek fires conjoining and threatening the highway.
On Aug. 15 the Lytton Creek fire was also visible from Spences Bridge, burning at Arthur’s Seat near Murray Falls. Helicopters were bucketing the blaze, and it was hoped that winds would push it back on itself. The community remains on evacuation alert, but on Aug. 16 lost Internet and phone service. A temporary TELUS unit was scheduled to be put in place on Aug. 17.
To date, 10 of the 11 municipalities within the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, and eight of the 10 electoral areas, have issued, or are currently under, evacuation alerts or orders. As of Aug. 17, 25 per cent of the TNRD was under evacuation order (29 in total, impacting 1,483 addressed properties) or alert (60 in total, impacting 4,419 addressed properties), with 13 First Nations in the region also under evacuation order or alert.
There are currently 264 fires burning in the province. There have been 1,513 fires since April 1 this year.
For up-to-date information on the wildfire situation in B.C., including detailed information about “Wildfires of Note” such as Tremont Creek and Lytton Creek, go to the BC Wildfire service page at http://bit.ly/2HCKBod. For information about the evacuation alerts and orders in the TNRD, go to the TNRD dashboard at https://bit.ly/3dcIk0L. For information about First Nations evacuation alerts and orders, go to the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society EOC website at https://www.fness-eoc.ca/.
As fires burn nearby, highways can close suddenly and without notice. They can also be subject to travel advisories, meaning they are still open but drivers are urged to be aware of conditions. For information about highway closures and travel advisories, go to www.drivebc.ca.