July 04, 2015 - 8:00 PM
PORT HARDY, B.C. - Dozens of wildfires burning across British Columbia are forcing residents from their homes, with one small Vancouver Island district declaring a state of emergency.
Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood said a state of emergency was issued on Saturday morning after an 16-hectare fire caused the evacuation of about 100 residences.
"We're hopeful, but it's still a very volatile situation," he said.
Bood said the fire is extremely unusual for Port Hardy, as it typically has a wet climate but has not had rain in two months.
He warned residents to obey the campfire ban that the B.C. government has issued for the entire province, apart from a two-kilometre strip on Vancouver Island.
"People in the north island need to understand that we are in a very unusual place," he said. "We're not fooling around anymore."
Declaring a state of emergency will allow the district to bill the province for expenses it incurs during the blaze, he added.
The fire is believed to be human-caused. It began Friday night on the Tsulaquat River, a heavily timbered area about 1.5 kilometres west of Port Hardy.
Donna MacPherson of the B.C. Wildfire Service said when the fire started, strong winds were blowing sparks into the air, creating a small spot fire in the area about 1 hectare in size.
She said retardant drops completed by air tankers Friday night helped contain the main blaze. On Saturday, crews were working on the edges of the fire and helicopters were dumping large amounts of ocean water on the area.
The B.C. Wildfire Service was bringing in more resources to fight the blaze on Saturday afternoon.
MacPherson said temperatures are 12 to 18 degrees hotter than they normally are this time of year.
"We're asking anybody, if you see a tree, stop and think about what you're doing," she said. "Think about whatever it is you're doing that might start a forest fire. We don't need any more."
More than 150 wildfires are burning in B.C., including a 500-hectare fire about 23 kilometres northwest of Pemberton.
Officials issued an evacuation order on Saturday for both sides of the Upper Lillooet Forest Service Road from 9 kilometer to the top of the Pemberton Valley.
The order affected three industrial operations: two pumice mines and an independent power project. One of the mines was inactive while the other began sending home staff. Some support staff at the power project remained to assist the B.C. Wildfire Service.
Meanwhile on Saturday, an additional 40 firefighters and support staff were brought in to battle a blaze in the Okanagan, bringing the total number of crew members to more than 60.
The 80-hectare blaze has prompted the evacuation of 142 homes in the Joe Rich area of Kelowna.
Highway 33 was open to single-lane alternating traffic through the fire zone but the speed limit was reduced. RCMP set up road blocks at Goudie Road and Cardinal Creek Road to prevent access to the evacuated area.
The B.C. Wildfire Service also warned that smoke from two lightning-caused wildfires could drift into the communities of Bella Coola, Houston, Burns Lake, Southside and Francois Lake.
The Kapella River fire had burned about 600 to 1,000 hectares about 77 kilometres northwest of Bella Coola, while the Europa Lake fire had burned about 10 hectares about 86 kilometres southeast of Kitimat.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015